Food and lodging are the bigggest road trip budget busters. Plan ahead on eating and sleeping to save money on road trips, and use a few simple tips to save some big money on road trip gas, too. Check out these top 5 money saving road trip tips below, or go straight to Road Trip Planning 101.
1. Eschew the drive through:
Running through Mickey D's racks up the road trip food bucks and it gets boring to boot. Stop in at Mom's Apple Pie Cafe sorts of spots for mega meals on the cheap instead. Look for early bird specials -- you and the old folks can find big dinners for a few bucks. Get off the main road for real cheap eats. Totally score on cheap street food at local celebrations like art-in-the-park type stuff -- look for balloons as you drive through towns.
2. Save on snacks:
Snacks are big budget killers on road trips -- racks of Cheetos and Fritos at 99 cents are irresistible in convenience stores. Pick up cheaper chips at grocery stores (like Safeway) in economy-sized bags instead and get roughly twice as much for your money. Bring a cooler (styrafoam varieties are cheaper at WalMart than convenience stores) and load it up with sodas from the Publix rather than 7-11.
3. Stay for free:
Camping for free is as easy as pulling off in a National Forest and stretching out under the stars. If you prefer a roof, crash free on a couch with a like-minded free spirit host in safety with Couchsurfing's database. Folks from 15 to 55 surf couches -- it's fun.
4. Find the cheapest gas:
Check out some likely choices for cheap gas in advance with these gas cost calculators. Once on the road, you'll probably forget specific stations... remember town names from your research, and pull off at big clover leaf exits to compare gas prices at several spots.
5. Save gas while driving:
Follow a few simple gas-saving tips to save a lot of road trip money:
- Turn off the AC -- it hogs the gas faster than you can say, "Four dollars a gallon?!" (Leaving four-wheel-drive engaged is also a gas-drainer.)
- Ease off the pedal well before a stop sign and coast to a stop; take off in a mellow manner. Burning rubber burns gas needlessly.
- Inflate tires to close to max -- carry a teeny tire gauge and read the tire's side.
- Avoid floors-it-for-you cruise control.
- Don't speed. Wastes gas and one ticket can destroy a summer road trip budget.
"Frugality without creativity is deprivation."
- Amy Dacyczyn