How To Save Money On A Road Trip – 9 Tips

Learning helpful money saving tips for your next road trip will allow you to save significantly.There are a ton of tips to save on a road trip and using them will make your next trip much less expensive and more enjoyable.

Road trips can be fun but doing a little extra planning and preparing can prevent the trip from being too expensive.

Here are 9 of the best tips for saving money:

Create A Budget

Search for Alternative Lodging

Scout out the Parking Situation Where You are Staying

Tell Your Bank

Use GasBuddy

Plan Ahead

Prepare Snacks

Drive Efficiently and Use Cruise Control

Get Car Tuned

These tips will give you a significantly better chance at cutting down on how much you spend on your next road trip.

Through this post I hope to give you valuable tips that you can use to learn how to save money on a road trip.

Budget Sign
Create A Budget

Create A Budget

Creating a budget for your main expenses is the first step to setting you up for an affordable trip. If your budget is going to be tight for this trip, then creating a detailed budget will be essential for a successful and enjoyable trip.

The 5 main expenses to plan for are the following:

  • Miscellaneous/Fun
  • Affordable Lodging
  • Car Expenses/Parking Expenses
  • Gas
  • Food

These are the main expenses for most road trips and I will explain how to save money in each of these areas through this post.

Take the time to prioritize which parts of this budget are the most important and which are more flexible.

Answer the following questions to help prioritize your road trip:

Do you want to save money on food and stay in nice hotels?

How much driving are you willing to do each day?

What kinds of place do you want to stay in?

How much time do you have to plan out this trip?

The biggest question to answer is how much time do you have to plan out the trip. Because this will give you an accurate idea of how much planning you can realistically do for this trip.

Always give yourself a Miscellaneous Expense Buffer for your road trip or any trip because there will always be extra expenses that come up.

Even if you had a year to plan a trip I still believe that there will always be unexpected costs that come up.

If you have a miscellaneous expense established before you start the trip, then you will be prepared for most unexpected costs and they won’t seriously dampen the trip.

If you want more tips to help create a successful budget, then read How To Create A Good Budget.

Tent camping
Search for Alternative Lodging

Search for Alternative Lodging

Searching for alternative lodging could help you stay in some inexpensive places that are fun too. Do some research into the areas where you are hoping to stay. See if there are any Airbnb spots to stay and don’t be surprised if you find some great hidden gems.

You have to ask yourself which of the following lodging situations you are willing to stay in:

  • Hostels
  • Motels
  • Campgrounds
  • Airbnb

If you have the equipment and space in your car, then opting to go camping instead of staying in a motel could add some adventure to your trip and save you a ton.

Whatever lodging you are hoping to stay in, do some research about what the prices are for motels or Airbnb places in those areas you are traveling to. Doing this will keep yourself from getting charged more than you should be.

I like to use Booking as my main resource for finding lodging and this website and app are both great.

Booking will mostly show you options for hostels before hotels and if you don’t want to stay in hostels, then you will have to filter the hostels out of your searches.

I have been able to use it to save money for all of the following situations:

  • To plan ahead for lodging
  • Make last minute lodging changes using the app
  • Find places with free cancelation up to even a few hours before check in

Adding some alternative lodging places to stay could save you money and give you some extra adventures on your road trip.

If you want to read more about Booking, read How To Save Money for Vacations.

No Parking Sign
Scout out the Parking Situation Where You are Staying


Scout out the Parking Situation Where You are Staying

Do some research into the parking situation for each of the places you are hoping to stay. Find out whether there is a parking space included in your reservation because this can be important for keeping your car safer.

If the place you are traveling to is an area that you are not familiar with, you should take some precautions to protect your vehicle, especially if you are staying in a big city.

When I was using Booking for a recent international trip, I always made sure to have a parking space included. Primarily because we were in a rental car and we absolutely did not want any damage to come to the car.

Besides keeping your car safe it also helps to do some research into the parking prices of the area where you are staying. This is because some big cities can have very expensive prices per hour or day to park your car.

Parking tickets can become an issue if you are parking in a bigger city and the last fee you want to pay is a parking ticket.

Doing a little research will help keep all of these parking expenses from becoming surprisingly costly and help keep your road trip fun and affordable.

Tell Your Bank

Tell your bank where you are going, especially if you are traveling into a different state or country, so that they do not freeze the account for your debit or credit card. This usually can be done in less than 5 minutes using your online bank account.

Login to your account and then type out Manage Travel Plans in the search box.

Then you simply add a new travel plan, which usually involves entering the following information:

Your Departure and Return Dates

Which State or Country You Are Going To

Your Phone Number

After you have completed this plan and submitted it, you should be all set for your card to work and have no problems come up with it for your trip.

If your travel plans change, then you can always adjust the information for this travel plan easily later.

Another helpful tip is to check what the fees are for using that card in another country because these can actually be very significant.

You can look at the fees connected to your card on your online account if you search for View Fees and Information.

Use Key Gas Stations

Use GasBuddy

Use GasBuddy to find the best spots to get gas along the route that you are taking. There is also a GasBuddy app you can download so you can search as you are driving along.

I recommend researching some before the start of your trip to come up with some good places for stops along the way that will save you the most on gas.

You can use the website or app to input all your important driving information including:

  • Your starting location
  • Destination
  • All the details of your car(Make, Year, Model)
  • Type of gas your car requires

Then the GasBuddy calculator will determine exactly how much your trip will cost for gas and where you can stop along the way to save the most.

If you want to change your route as you are driving, you can jump on the GasBuddy app and quickly figure out the best route to still save the most.

Plan Ahead

Planning ahead can help you save money as well as make your road trip much smoother. Researching the route you are taking and trying to account for any potential delays can be huge for saving you money and reducing the chance of significant delays from decreasing the fun of your trip.

Traffic Jams
Plan Ahead to Prevent Traffic Jams

The main delays to watch out for include the following:

  • Traffic Delays, such as going through a busy city during rush hour
  • Stormy Weather or Icy Roads
  • Construction Zones

You should be able to do some research on your computer before you travel by going to department of transportation websites for each state.

If you do this research before you travel, then you will stay one step ahead of most of the delays for your trip.

Time when you are likely to go through-traffic heavy areas and avoid them or go through them during a non busy time of day. This is likely to keep you from sitting idly in your car and wasting extra gas.

Try to book all your accommodations before you depart on your trip to get the best deals so as not to have to stay at a more expensive place.

Always bringing an extra map of the area you travel through is a good idea just in case the internet goes down. Having a map of the area can help keep you on track so that if you take a single wrong turn you don’t suddenly wind up getting lost.

I like to buy a map of the area that I am going to visit and usually buy that map on Amazon so that I can get a very inexpensive but quality map of where I am planning to visit.

Trying to stay with friends or family could save you significantly even if those friends or family are a little out the way.

The prices of hotels are so expensive that finding ways to save is big for savings. Going further out of your way to spend the night at a friend’s place is almost definitely going to end up saving you more money than if you try to stay in a hotel or other accommodations.

Strawberries as a Snack
Prepare Snacks for Additional Savings

Prepare Snacks

Going out to eat can get pretty expensive fast especially when you are on the road. Taking the time to buy or prepare, a few snacks will allow you to be stocked with some food and save you some money.

By not stopping as much to go out to eat you will actually save time on your trip.

If you really want to save on food during the trip, prepare a couple days worth of food with the basics such as sandwiches, smoothies, fruits and almonds. Packing some leftovers is always a great idea too because then the leftover food gets eaten and you save a bunch.

If you do have to stop for food along the way, try to stop at a grocery store instead of a restaurant. By going into the grocery store for food you will be able to get much more food for significantly less money than if you had gone out to eat.

If you do end up going out to eat at restaurants but still want to save some money, read How To Save Money at a Restaurant.

Another tip you can use is packing frozen water bottles in a cooler.

By doing this you will be able to have some ice for your food that you have prepared and you will also have refreshing water drinks as they thaw.

Drive Efficiently and Use Cruise Control




Drive Efficiently and Use Cruise Control

Driving efficiently and using the cruise control setting in your car is likely going to save you a significant amount of money.

Using cruise control and driving more efficiently will make the drive easier and not as costly.

Driving more efficiently could include either of the following:

  • Less Fast Accelerating
  • Avoid Driving Particularly Fast

By practicing driving with less fast accelerating your car will not consume as much gas. Avoiding driving particularly fast, such as over 60 miles per hour, will allow you to achieve the best economy for your car.

Driving faster is potentially going to get you to your destination faster but is going to cost you more.

By driving slower you will save a significant amounts on gas expenses alone and this way you will not have to constantly be worrying about getting a speeding ticket either.

By driving more efficiently and not accelerating as much you will not only be able to save money on gas but also help not wear out the other important parts of your car as much too.

If you want to read more about saving money on car expenses, read How To Save Money on Car Maintenance.

Get Car Tuned

Taking the time to get your car tuned before heading out on your road trip could save you all kinds of money and headaches.

Getting the car tuned will make sure that there is no nagging issues that could turn into a big problem when your halfway on the road trip.

Checking the car’s tire pressure and pumping them up if they are low is a great way to keep your car driving efficiently.

Properly inflated tires will reduce friction resulting in better gas mileage for your car and the tires will last longer.

Use the Best Combination of These Tips

Find the best combination of these tips, or all of these tips, to save the most for your trip and have more fun.

Most of these tips for saving money will actually make the trip much smoother and more enjoyable because there will be less unexpected costs or delays along the way.

I hope that you enjoyed this post and learned some helpful information about how to save money on a road trip.

If you have any questions, feel free to leave them below and I will get back to you with the best answer that I can.

10 Replies to “How To Save Money On A Road Trip – 9 Tips”

  1. Hey Jesse!
    I wish I had read this article before going on my Cross-Australia roadtrip. I’ve never heard of and it seems like a fantastic money-saving resource.

    Thanks for the tip!

  2. Thank you very much for this informative and straightforward post.
    Last year, the whole family went on a road trip from Brussels. We visited Eurodisney in Paris, Germany and the Netherlands. It was a great experience. The only problem is that we didn’t plan it very thoroughly and we had several issues regarding gas and snacks.
    I wish I had read your post before that.

  3. Well done, these are all some awesome tips. Some are well known, others are not (I didn’t know about the GasBuddy app or Booking website). These may seem like little steps but compounded together they can make your road trip more seamless and stress free. Thanks for providing this information, you certainly seem well traveled!

  4. These are great tips. Camping is more affordable than staying in hotels. Planning ahead is definitely the best thing you can do before going on any trip. Thanks for the useful information.

  5. We love doing road trips. Fully agree that planning and preparation help make trips less expensive and minimize unnecessary stress. Learning money-saving tips always very useful and helpful.

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