6 Ways to Save Money on a Road Trip

Road trips may seem cheaper, but watch out for these costs

How to save money on a road trip

Many people believe that road trips can be less expensive than flying to your destination, especially if you have a family. 

While that might be true, there are still ways you might want to save money on a road trip. Saving money on travel means more money to spend on your actual vacation.

Here are six ways to reduce your costs while you're on the road. 

1. Prepare Food and Snacks Ahead of Time

No matter what, food is always going to be an expense you can go overboard with.

This holds true for extended trips in the car. 

You might decide to visit fast food chains and order off the dollar menu for every meal, or you might opt for a sit-down restaurant to give yourself a rest from the car. If you’re traveling with children, you might also have to stop more frequently. 

However, you don’t necessarily want to spend your food budget on the road trip portion of your journey. Wouldn't you rather dedicate the funds to eating out at your destination? 

Instead of filling up on junk or greasy food, pack food and snacks when you leave. Bring a cooler with you (don’t forget the ice) and stock it with sandwiches, drinks, and fruit and veggies. This will not only save you money, but it will also save you time since you won't have to stop as much.

2. Look at Alternative Lodging

Traveling without younger kids gives you more flexibility here, but if you can, look into Airbnb if you’re going on a longer road trip that will require a night or two of driving.

 

You’d be surprised at the number of hosts that can accommodate last-minute guests, and homes can be cozier than motels. 

Feeling adventurous? If you have room for the equipment, forgo traditional lodging completely and go camping. It will break up the monotony of the drive, you’ll save a lot of money, and you’ll have a side-trip in addition to your regular trip to look forward to.

At the very least, before you hit the road, estimate where you might stop and check out hotels available in the area. What are the average prices? Having this knowledge means there’s less of a chance you’ll get ripped off. You don't want to be desperate and tired at 1AM, willing to take any room, even if it's 50% more than you wanted to pay.

Can you decide where you want to stop and sleep ahead of time? Are you flexible and not very particular about it? Then look into booking hotels “blindly.” Many of the prominent booking sites like Priceline offer this option, and you’ll usually get a room for much less. 

3. Get the Most Out of Your Gas

While it might sound like an annoyance, going the speed limit, or hovering around 65mph, will ensure your car stays efficient on gas for the duration of your trip. If your car has cruise control, use it to stay on track.

Speeding excessively or taking local roads that require you to stop constantly (or traveling during peak times) will have an impact on your gas tank. 

Also, before you leave on your trip, check your tire pressure. You want your tires filled with enough air so your fuel economy doesn't suffer.

Another tip to save money on gas: make sure the stations you stop at don’t charge extra for credit cards.

Read the “fine print” and have cash on hand just in case. 

4. Get a Transponder for Tolls

Are you traveling in an area that’s plagued with toll roads, tunnels, or bridges? Then you might want to think about investing in a transponder which you can link to a bank account or credit card so tolls are automatically deducted when you go through them. 

These transponders allow you to zip through tolls, but they can offer discounts, too. For example, if you have an EZPass and you’re traveling through New York, you’ll benefit by paying a few dollars less when crossing bridges.

5. Avoid Getting a Ticket

Check your car over before leaving for your trip to make sure all your lights are working properly. The last thing you need on your trip is getting a ticket for something being amiss, especially if you're driving at night.

Be mindful of turning right on red, as different states have different laws regarding this. Check for cameras before you turn.

The worst is getting a speeding ticket on a road trip. That has the potential to ruin things before they’ve even started. Stay mindful of your speed, and use cruise control to ensure you’re not going over the speed limit.

6. Scout Out Parking Spots

One expense people typically forget about when traveling to major cities is parking. Unfortunately, this can be anywhere from $10 to $30 per day, depending on where you stay. 

Scout out parking garages before you get there to see where the best place to park is. Your hotel might not be the cheapest option, even if it is the most convenient. If you’re staying in an Airbnb, try booking one that has a free parking spot included.