How to Save Money on a Road Trip: 5 Tips

My family and I are lucky enough to live in a beautiful region of the Pacific Northwest. Since we’re a family of five and airfare is sometimes out of the budget, we often opt to save money on a road trip. While more economical than flying, road trip costs can add up, especially as gas prices increase in the summer months. Aside from traveling in a fuel-efficient car, what can you do to lower road trip costs? Here are five key ways to road trip on a shoestring, whether you’re traveling solo or with the whole family.

how to save money on road trips

1. Plan your itinerary with gas prices in mind

Road trips (at least the pleasurable kind) aren’t about going the farthest possible distance in a given number of days. Instead of seeing how far you can get, look for itineraries with lots to see and do in a smaller square mileage. Drive only a few hours per day, and spend the rest of your time renting bikes at your day’s destination or exploring by foot. California’s Highway 1 is a great area for a multi-stop road trip, which will help you save money on a road trip.

2. Tent camp

Or reserve a state park cabin or yurt. Any of these options will be far less expensive than driving a gas-guzzling motorhome or hauling a camper trailer. Plus, camping is far cheaper than reserving a motor inn or motel room, and twice as much fun.

3. Dine al fresco

Eat out while on the road (and when I say “out,” I mean “outside”). Stopping en route to pick up breakfast and lunch groceries and eating them at recreation areas or scenic overlooks (or even a regional park) not only saves you money, but is healthier and allows you to see more of the area you’ve driven to see. If you’re traveling with kids, parks and recreational areas provide the additional benefit of being kid-friendly: let them run around and burn off energy before getting back in the car. Tip: find parks and natural areas by using Google Earth on your smart phone while on the road.

road trip savings

4. Budget gas money by using a gasoline price calculator

We use Cost2Drive, which determines the estimated gasoline cost of any road trip, based on your beginning and ending destination and make and model of your car. Cost2Drive is especially useful when several people or parties are sharing in the gas cost of a trip: no need to split the cost at every pump… just divide the price ahead of time (or afterward).

5. Park your car and use public transit while staying in cities

While staying three nights in San Francisco next month, we’ve decided to park our car at a BART station outside the city, take the train in, and enjoy our city touring car-free. Not only will our visit be more relaxing (who wants to navigate unfamiliar city streets in a car?) but we’ll save over $100 in overnight and curbside parking fees.

Are you taking any road trips this spring or summer? What do you do to save money on a road trip?

Photo credit: brownpau.


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