4 Money Saving Tips for a Road Trip

by Miranda Marquit · 4 comments

Road trip

One of the great pleasures I have in life is the road trip. I love traveling, and a road trip makes the whole thing a little more real to me. I enjoy the journey almost as much as the destination — especially if I’m able to travel through landscapes that are new to me.

A road trip can get expensive, though. By the time you pay for gas, hotels, and food along the way, costs start getting out of hand. As you prepare for your next road trip, here are four tips that can help you save money:

1. Properly Prep Your Car

One of the most important things you can do to save money on a road trip is to make sure that your car is properly prepped. You don’t want to run into mechanical problems that can be expensive — and that can strand you by the side of the road somewhere.

Additionally, a car that is well cared for gets better gas mileage than a car that has to struggle. Get your car’s system up to scratch, and then, once you’re on the road, go easy on it. Drive defensively, and avoid speeding. You’ll be able to avoid an expensive ticket, and, again, you’ll get better gas mileage when you pay attention to the way you drive.

2. Plan Your Route

Look ahead to where you’ll be going. Be realistic, too, about when and where you’ll stop. Consider the purpose of your road trip, and stop when appropriate. You can get help planning your route with AAA and Google Maps.

When you have a realistic plan, you can know when to stop for gas (you don’t want to run out of gas in the middle of the desert — something that’s happened to me). Planning your route can also help you look for hotels that you prefer to stay in, including ones with loyalty programs.

3. Look for Deals

I’ve got a road trip coming up during my son’s spring break. I’ve signed up for deals from hotels in Las Vegas, where we’ll stay for a couple of nights. Additionally, I’m looking for deals at hotels where I’m a loyalty member. I once received extra points on a road trip for staying two qualified nights at eligible hotels.

There are other ways to look for deals, as well. Consider using gas apps that can help you find the lowest local prices on gas. If you know that you’ll be engaging in certain activities, look for local deals. I’m signed up for daily deal sites in cities that I travel to, and when something pops up for the times I’m in town, I snatch it up.

4. Bring Your Own Food

This isn’t something I do very much anymore. I bring snacks for the time in the car, but I don’t actually bring meals, since my son and I don’t cost that much to feed when we’re on the road. However, when I was growing up, my parents usually fed my four siblings and me out of a cooler. We had sandwich stuff, snacks, and milk, and when needed, my parents replenished the ice from the hotel machine.

You can save a lot by bringing your own food, or by shopping at a local grocery store and preparing your own meals (on one memorable trip, I brought a hibachi and we cooked our own food in a park). This is especially true if you have a large family.

What are your favorite ways to save money on a road trip?

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

KM March 5, 2013 at 8:32 am

Camping is a great way to save money on hotels, and it’s more fun too, assuming your road trip is not during winter. It’s a lot easier to make your own food too since you usually have access to a fire and can make more than just sandwiches. Another thing is to always have emergency items in your car. I never had to use them yet, but my car is always stocked with foam cans in case of a flat, MREs, a space blanket, first aid kit, and other nifty supplies. Sometimes it feels like I am carrying around junk, but better safe than sorry.

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Christian L. March 5, 2013 at 9:34 am

Miranda,
I road trip at least once a month. We travel at least two hours and as much as nine hours by car. One thing my buddies and I use is the Gas Buddy app. It’ll show you gas stations distance from you and how much they’re charging. When you’re filling up tanks, $0.03 or $0.05 per gallon is huge savings, especially when you travel as much as we do.

-Christian L. @ Smart Military Money

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Property Marbella March 6, 2013 at 1:33 am

Check car tires, set correctly, the correct air pressure, engine oil level, replace the oil filter, etc. You will save much money in gasoline with a car in mint condition.

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@pfinMario March 12, 2013 at 11:33 am

For places to stay, I always check airbnb.com first in order to save money. Actually, I first check to see if I know someone in the area.

More than the things you mentioned, traffic is a much bigger factor in determining how much you’re going to spend on gas, which is why I like to plan my driving around off-peak hours. Depending on the time of year, driving at night also provides the added benefit of letting you keep the ac off (which uses energy) and windows up (which creates drag).

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