This year more than ever, many of us will be considering a driving vacation instead of flying somewhere exotic. But can you really have a frugal road trip?
Sure, you save money by not paying for flights but gas and accommodations add up quickly. Planning ahead helps and also being flexible with your schedule.
A few years ago I did an epic road trip from California to New York and managed to stick to a budget and see all the sites I wanted to see by being savvy with my money and my options.
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8 Tips For A Frugal Road Trip
1. Plan everything as much as possible.
It’s easier to plan ahead than to come up with last-minute solutions on the road. Panicking to find accommodation at the last minute often means having to spend more for less luxurious digs.
Check for deals online, make phone calls, and compare rates. Book your arrangements ahead of time so you have a rough outline of your itinerary. Also, consider alternatives to hotels such as camping and AirBnbs.
If you are buying tickets for an attraction, search online for discount codes and also check out the website because sometimes there are discounts if you sign up for a mailing list or like their Facebook page.
2. Compare gas prices.
Gas prices often fluctuate from one area to the next. Download an app like Gasbuddy so you can see the gas prices along your route.
Also be aware that you can save money on gas by driving differently.
3. Watch your food costs
Fast food is convenient, but the cost can quickly add up during a road trip. You may want to bring your own snacks and meals.
Consider getting a large cooler with ice to pack food and beverages. You can stock it up every few days at supermarkets on your route.
Another idea to cut costs on your road trip is to book hotels with free breakfasts. Also some hotels offer happy hours with mini meals that can help you to save money.
4. Pack as much as you can
Did you remember to bring all of your medication and other medical supplies? You can save money by avoiding a trip to a pharmacy.
Do you have enough clothes and shoes for everyone? Are you prepared for emergencies? Avoid having to shop for a new pair of sneakers during the road trip because your child’s feet are cold.
5. Look for free events and attractions
You’ll find that many museums, events, and other places have free admission. You can add these to your plan as you put together your list.
6. Give your car a physical
Carefully check your car before you leave. Inflate your tires to the pressure that’s recommended in the car’s manual to maximize gas usage.
You can avoid costly roadside assistance and towing by doing recommended maintenance that you know will be needed soon. Do you need an oil change or minor repairs? Do them before you leave on your trip!
7. Pick flexible cancelation policies.
Road trips can be eventful, and the best plans cannot prevent all possible emergencies. Search for hotels and restaurants with flexible cancelation policies to avoid adding extra costs to your trip.
Even though these types of hotel room may cost you a few dollars extra at the outset, it can save you hundreds down the road.
8. Use Coupons
Coupons and discounts can really help you have a frugal road trip.
Look for them in hotels, restaurants, and other touristy venues. Museums and shops may also offer them along your route. Stock up on additional savings.
Also, make sure to stop off at the visitors centre whenever you cross state lines. They often have many coupons for local attractions as well as free coffee in many instances.
Sometimes they even have free events you can attend at the centre, I had a lot of fun at a Bread and Jam jazz session in Des Moines Iowa one time.