As summer approaches, many people are making travel plans and getting ready to head out to new destinations. If you’ve been thinking about a road trip, this summer is the perfect time to go! But what if you want to save money, and don’t want to spend a small fortune on gas, amenities, and repair costs? Here are 18 ways to save money on your road trip this summer.
18 Ways to Save Money on Your Road Trip This Summer
This post has been written by our talented staff writer, Kimberly Studdard.
First things first, always plan in advance. Where do you plan on going? What are some great stops on your route? How long do you plan on being on your trip? All of these questions should be answered before you even leave your driveway. While spontaneous road trips can be fun, they can also add up in extra costs because you’ll have no idea where you’re going or what you’re doing.
2) Tell Your Bank
Did you know that your bank could charge you fees for using your card out of state? They could also shut it down completely, leaving you without money to pay for anything you may want or need on your trip. While not all banks will charge you, stay on the safe side and let your bank know ahead of time what your travel plans are.
3) Go Somewhere Others Aren’t
People love the beaches and nice weather places in the summer. Plan on visiting California? You might pay extra in hotel costs, parking, food, and more. However, states like Utah, Georgia, Massachusetts, and even Florida will usually slash prices on hotels and fun activities like theme parks or snorkeling. By traveling to an off-season travel state, you’ll be able to save money on your road trip!
4) Use Your Car
If you have a car with decent mileage, reliability, and comfort, why not save some money on a rental and use your car for your road trip? You could save as little as $250, or as much as $450 a week, which is great if you plan on traveling for a few weeks.
If you’re going to use your car, you can save money on your road trip by making sure everything is in working order. Have a mechanic check over your tires and make sure to get a tune up, oil change, or whatever else you need to before you hit the road. It may cost some money up front, but it can save a ton in repair costs down the road if your mechanic catches a problem early.
6) Rent A Small or Discounted Car
While you can save money on your road trip by using your own car, I don’t suggest doing so if you have a car that could be costly in repairs (like a BMW) or if you’re car is standing on it’s last leg (like your old college beater).
There are still ways to save money when you rent a car, like choosing a smaller vehicle or finding a coupon online. Plus, the great thing about renting a car is you don’t have to pay for repairs, maintenance, or anything of the like! That could add up over the course of your trip.
7) Buy Cheap Gas
Some people believe that premium gas is better, but if your car doesn’t really need premium, you’re wasting money. Go with the regular stuff, and use an app like GasBuddy to find the cheapest gas around when it’s time to fill up your car.
(A note from Derek: If you want to save a few more pennies, you can pinch the hose and shake the nozzle to make sure you get every drop of gas that you paid for… I saw this on one of those Cheapskate shows and was embarrassed to even watch that guy on TV. You’ll never catch me doing this…that’s just crossing the line.)
8) Drive Safely and Legally
While on the topic of saving money with your car, don’t speed or drive recklessly. Not only could this get you a ticket, but it could have severe consequences if you cause an accident. No one wants to spend their vacation paying a ticket or calling their insurance company.
This should go without saying, but packing your food and drinks can save you a lot of money on your road trip. By packing snacks, sandwiches, and drinks like water and Gatorade beforehand, you can save money by not stopping as often to eat. Fast food, gas stations, and the like can get expensive fast. Even if you buy a cooler and food at your local grocery store, you’ll most likely still save quite a few dollars.
Also, pack on-the-go-snacks that don’t need to be refrigerated, like beef jerky, crackers, and popcorn. Even fruits like oranges and apples can keep hunger at bay, and they’re healthier than any fast food you can find!
10) Have Backups
Even the most well prepared cars can have mishaps. Keeping a backup spare tire, blankets, an extra phone charger, a small container of gas, and tools can save you a lot of headache and money. And make sure to keep cash on hand. You never know when you may need to use it, especially if you happen to break down in a super small town.
11) Avoid Tolls
While you may not always be able to avoid a toll, using a website like Google Maps (they have an “avoid tolls option”) can help you keep some cash in your wallet. While $2-$3 may not seem like much, imagine hitting a toll every 100 miles or so on your road trip. That could easily add up to $50 or more on your journey to and from your destination. Instead, you could use that $50 on something fun during your trip, or just keep it in your savings.
12) Keep Entertainment On Hand
Whether you’re traveling with friends, family, or alone, don’t forget to keep entertainment on hand. Audio books and music can go a long way when driving by yourself, and books, movies, and fun games can entertain family and friends. How does this save money on your road trip? You’ll be less likely to stop to escape the boredom, thus having the chance to not spend money on activities or food that you don’t need.
13) Use Apps
There are some great travel apps out there, including Yelp and TripAdvisor, that can help you find whatever you need, from cheaper hotels to great and inexpensive places to eat. You could also use apps like Roomer to get deals on last minute hotel stays.
14) Use Wi-Fi When You Can
If you are one of the unlucky souls to not have unlimited data, don’t let that get you down. Just use the Wi-Fi at the places you visit. If you do choose to eat out, or if you’re stopping by to grab some coffee, use the Wi-Fi to upload photos, do some work, or check whatever you need to. No sense spending extra money on data overages when you don’t need to.
15) Airbnb (Or Camp!)
If you can’t find a hotel within your budget, you can still save money on your road trip by choosing an Airbnb or even by camping. There are many shared and private rooms available on Airbnb for a fraction of the cost of a hotel room, plus you’ll have options like a kitchen (and maybe a pool or beach access if that’s your thing). Some Airbnb’s even have the option for couch surfing for a small fee. If you choose to camp, don’t forget to pack a tent and the necessities you’ll need while out in the open.
Wherever you choose to stay, try finding a place that serves a complimentary breakfast. It can be hard to pack enough food for three meals and two snacks a day, so free breakfast can save space and keep money in your wallet. Plus, you can have all of the coffee, tea, and juice you can drink before heading out.
17) Check Out The Free Stuff
Staying in an area for a few days? Check out what the city has to offer for free or cheap. You could find just about anything, from concerts to meet ups. There are many ways to find out what a city offers for free or cheap, but checking out a city’s website may be your best bet. You’re bound to find something that sounds fun and inexpensive.
18) Split Costs
Why travel alone when you can travel with someone you care about and split the costs? Save money on your road trip by splitting costs with a friend (or friends), or even your family. A girls or guy trip is a great way to pack into a car, split the costs and still enjoy your vacation. Not only will you never be bored, you’ll be able to enjoy an awesome vacation for half the price.
If you do plan on traveling and splitting the costs, remember to agree on what you’re splitting. Will you go half and half on the car? Who pays for food? Who fills up the car? Make sure everyone knows their responsibilities before going on the road trip. Fights aren’t worth your precious vacation time.
Road trips can be a great and inexpensive way to travel and see more of the country, without sacrificing comfort.
Time to Save Money on Your Road Trip This Summer
If you wanted to save money on your road trip this summer, you now have absolutely no excuses! After implementing all these tips, you could easily save hundreds of dollars on your next vacation! Use that money toward your debts, your savings, or maybe you could even bump up your investments. Whatever you choose, at least you had the option and made the savings happen.
Will you save money on your road trip this summer? What other ways have you found that will save money??
My name is Derek, and I have my Bachelors Degree in Finance from Grand Valley State University. After graduation, I was not able to find a job that fully utilized my degree, but I still had a passion for Finance! So, I decided to focus my passion in the stock market. I studied Cash Flows, Balance Sheets, and Income Statements, put some money into the market and saw a good return on my investment. As satisfying as this was, I still felt that something was missing. I have a passion for Finance, but I also have a passion for people. If you have a willingness to learn, I will continue to teach.