travel

10 Life Hacks To Save Money On Road Trips

save money on road trips

Going on roads trips is a lot of fun. You drive around, enjoy the scenery and you get to meet great people from different social backgrounds. You also learn many new things because a road trip is a great form of education in its own right. The only hitch is that a road trip costs money. However, you can save money on road trips if you follow these road trip budget hacks below.

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How Do You Budget On A Road Trip?

Your road trip budget should focus on money-saving solutions for food, gas, lodging, and activities while you’re enjoying your trip. It’s smart to plan ahead so you can stay on top of your spending. If you’ll be on a long road trip, I’m talking a week or longer, the last thing you want to do is go through your budget in just a few days.

By following these money-saving road trip budget hacks, you’ll be on top of your budget the entire trip. So read along so you can plan a super cheap road trip while having a lot of fun!

1. Pack Your Own Food

One of the best things about going on road trip is that you eat out and enjoy the local cuisine. Unfortunately, eating out costs money and you don’t want to go above your budget. You can cut cost by simply packing your own food. Load up on groceries, provisions and drinks before you hit the road. You should also pack frozen water and frozen milk. This saves you the trouble of having to cool your water and drinks. In fact, your frozen milk and water make very refreshing drinks as they thaw.

Money saving tip: To cut down on eating out, I signed up for the $5 Meal Plan so I can eat more at home. It’s only $5 a month and you get meal plans with the exact shopping list you need to create the meals. Each meal cost about $2 per person. I thought this would be great for a road trip so you can pack the meals to take with you. When you sign up through my link, you’ll receive a 14-day free trial.

2. Load Up on Snacks

It pays to bring your own snacks so that you won’t be tempted to buy exotic snacks as you travel. Get a variety of snacks like pretzels, cookies and crackers. You can also make your own peanut butter sandwiches, pancakes, rolls and cakes. This way, you’ll have an excuse not to buy them on the road. Again, you can try dividing these snacks ahead of time. This move guarantees that you eat sensibly and helps you save money.

3. Shop Sensibly

It’s not likely that your supplies will last you the duration of the road trip so you have to reload when your supplies run low. The trick here is to shop sensibly. Buy your drinks, food, snacks and other essential commodities from a grocery store. Avoid fast food joints because they can cause havoc to your wallet overtime. If there are farms on your route, you should buy your fruits and vegetables directly from the farmer. In fact, it makes sense to buy these products by the dozen because you save money this way. In case you have to eat out, you should seek out local restaurants where you can be sure of huge portions and second helpings. This is a smart way to eat to your satisfaction without spending too much money.

Money saving tip: Before heading to the grocery store for some of your travel essentials, sign up for ibotta so you can save money and get some cash back!

4. Save Money on Gas

You can’t save money on road trips if you don’t factor in the cost of gas. The last thing you want is your gas tank guzzling a huge chunk of your road trip budget. Instead, download the app, Gas Buddy, and you will find the cheapest sources of gas in your area. (Also works in Canada!)

Sometimes, the difference between the cheapest and most expensive gas can be as high as 10 cents per gallon. Now, do the math and you will discover that the difference is substantial. You should also use gas reward facilities when you can. In fact, you should apply for gas reward cards before you hit the road. That way, you are sure to save plenty of cash when you fill up your tank.

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5. Check out The Vehicle

The most essential equipment for your road trip is your vehicle. Have your car checked out by a competent mechanic before you hit the road. Ensure that the lights and indicators are working perfectly. You should also check out vital indicators of your vehicle’s health. These things include your hydraulic, gearbox oil, (if your car is not automatic) and tire pressure. In addition, you should check water in the radiator, your battery and other electrical components. Do not embark on a road trip if your mechanic has not given the vehicle a clean bill of health.

Remember, road trips are meant to be fun and a memorable experience. The last thing you want is to waste your time and money on emergency vehicle repair while you are on the road. In addition, you should drive safely and avoid accidents. This simply comes down to obeying road signs and observing speed limits. You should also avoid tollgates so that you do not spend more money than is necessary on the trip.

6. Save Money on Accommodation

Hostels

A road trip is not the time to splurge on fancy hotels. To stay within your road trip budget, think of cheap and pragmatic ways to get accommodation that will save you big money. Your best bet is to stay in a hostel if you can find a good one along your route. Hostels are fun and I’ve stayed in some where I paid as low as $6 a night outside the U.S. You get to meet colorful people and make new friends if you sleep in one. Surf through Hostelworld to find affordable lodging.

Airbnb

Have you tried Airbnb? While there is fancy, expensive places to stay, you can also find dirt cheap accommodations with fun amenities. I’ve used Airbnb several times and found some great accommodations in and near the Los Angeles area that are a really great deal. If you’re new to Airbnb, you can get a $40 credit your first trip through my link.

Camping

Camping is also an excellent idea because oftentimes you don’t spend much if you take this option. As long as you have a tent or two, you can always find the perfect spot to spend the night. Some camping gear you should also bring are blankets, flashlights, camping lantern, and sleeping bags and/or tent if you want to embrace the camping option. If the weather is right, camping is a very smart idea. You get to enjoy the great outdoors and you are in touch with Mother Nature.

Tip: If you have friends, colleagues and distant relations in many cities, this is the time to make those connections work for you. Call these people in advance and tell them all about your road trip. They will be happy to give you free accommodation and this will add spice and color to your road trip. In the unlikely event that you don’t like any of the accommodation arrangements above, you can search for cheap hotels along your route.

7. Walk When You Can

A road trip involves a lot of driving around but this doesn’t mean you’re addicted to your vehicle. Park the car sometimes and walk around as often as you can. This is a great way to explore the cities you are visiting. It is also an excellent form of exercise too.

You can walk to the green grocer’s to load up on supplies. You can walk to the park and you can walk to the museum. You can also walk to the library, to the beach and to the farmer’s market. Walking gives your car a break and this saves you money. In addition, you meet people when you walk and you enjoy the great outdoors. Just make sure you pack some good walking shoes and light clothing so you have something comfortable to wear on your walk.

READ: What To Wear On a Road Trip

8. Get Free Entertainment

Entertainment is a huge part of your road trip experience but you don’t have to spend much money on this. Find cheap or free options and you will save good money. You can start the process by creating your own entertainment. Pack a few balls, a Frisbee or a badminton set. You should also pack any other athletic gear that you can use conveniently on your road trip. It also helps if you have a chess set, a scrabble set or any other table game.

With these items, you can provide your own entertainment without touching your road trip budget. You can also visit museums, parks, libraries or art galleries along your route. If you are driving during the summer, you will definitely find free art shows, concerts, festivals and carnivals. Take advantage of these entertainment options and you will spend little or nothing.

9. Travel At The Right Time

One of the best things about a road trip is that you can hit the road anytime you like; however, there will be times you’ll end up in heavy traffic thus wasting a great amount of gas. So, find detours and other roads with less traffic. This is when having a GPS comes in handy. I don’t recommend using the GPS on the phone as it will drain the battery faster and it’s the one thing you’ll need the most especially if you get lost. Instead use a car GPS like TomTom or Garmin for alternate routes.

During the tourism season, prices generally head north and you end up spending much more if you travel at this time. On the other hand, prices are generally low during the “off peak” season. Schedule your trip at the most financially convenient time and you will save plenty of cash on rent, food, gas and entertainment.

READ: How To Plan A Road Trip For Beginners

10. Have a budget and stick to it

Again the best way to ensure that you save money on the road is to have a road trip budget and stick to it judiciously. Write out a long list of all the things you need for the road trip and how much each item will cost. Edit your list and get rid of things you do not need. Work on this list until the only items left are the ones that are vital to your trip. By now, you have a great plan for the road trip but you can fine-tune this plan some more. Write out the total cost of the trip (to the nearest dollar).

How Much Do Road Trips Usually Cost?

road trip budget

There are so many variables when it comes to road tripping so I can’t tell you how much your road trip cost would be. When I go on road trips, I usually go with two other people and we’re really strict with the road trip budget. Our last trip was from Los Angeles to San Francisco. It was a 7 1/2 hour drive and we stayed in San Francisco for 3 days. I would say the daily cost was around $150-$175 per person and that’s including food, gas, accommodation and spare cash.

For food, we mostly packed our own food and dined out for daily one meal. For accommodations, we stayed at an airbnb ($200/night or $66 per person) which allowed us to cook our own meals. For gas, we calculated the cost prior which made it easy to include in our road trip budget. Lastly, each of us budgeted for souvenir shopping.

So, you should have a daily and weekly road trip budget planned out first. Don’t spend any money that is not on your budget. You should also set aside some money in case you have to deal with an emergency. Try to spend less than the cash you have allotted for your daily expenses and avoid impulse buying. It takes discipline to do this but the rewards will be worth it at the end of the day.

Finally, keep a record of all your expenses every day and make sure you are within your road trip budget at the end of each day. Discipline yourself, spend wisely and your road trip will be a huge success.

Ways to Make & Save More $$$

For those that are new to Hot Beauty Health, I’m always trying to find ways to make and save more money especially when I travel. Below are some of my favorite sites and products that may help you out with your travels:

  • Start a blog: Luckily, starting a blog is relatively easy and is how I currently make a living. I started blogging full-time in 2014 and now I make six figures a year. You can start your blog for as low as $2.95 a month through Bluehost and you’ll get a free domain if you sign up through my link. I have a free blogging course you can join too that will help you start and launch a successful blog!
  • Answer surveys: It’s a great way to make some quick cash for your travels. You get paid once you answer surveys and test their products. Best of all, many of the sites are free to join! I recommend Swagbucks and Survey Junkie.
  • Save money automatically: Save money without thinking about it with the Digit savings app. It’s a great way to save for your next road trip. When you sign up through my link, you will receive a 30-day free trial and $5 just for signing up!
  • Earn cash back when you shop: Sign up for Ebates to earn cash back when you shop your favorite stores online like you normally would. Plus it’s free and when you sign up through my link, you’ll receive $10 free cash back as a bonus.
  • Earn cash back on groceries: Before heading to the grocery store, sign up for ibotta so you can save money and get some cash back!

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Do you have any cheap road trip budget tips? Share your thoughts by commenting below!

7 Comments

  1. Great post! There are so many things I would have never thought of. The GasBuddy App is just one of those ‘Aha’ moments and the the $5 Meal Plan sounds awesome! Thanks so much!

  2. We try to make a trip 2 or 3 times a year. From 3 – 8 days last year, We LOVE AirBnB, have had great stays in 4 city’s.
    I always have a cooler, at least fresh fruit, veggie sticks, and of course water-in gallon bottles, to fill our travel tumblers. I have packed canned corned beef and fresh eggs to scramble in a bowl-the microwave cooks it up great. pack firmer rolls if you want to make sandwiches, a loaf of white bread always ends up smashed, but a heartier loaf, or rolls, bagels, work great.
    use those great apps, fuel finder is great,
    AAA is worth its cost if you USE it. There are so many places you can save thanks to that-and its a life saver if you break down.
    Look up free things to do-online you will find so many things.

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