5 Tips for More Affordable Road Trips

Posted by Safeco August 3, 2015
Pack Your Own Food to Cut Your Road Trip Costs

Get More Out of Your Time on the Road With These Cost-Saving Ideas

These days air fares are no bargain, and air travel is no fun. Gas prices have their ups and downs, but they’re trending down. Maybe it’s time for a good old-fashioned road trip.

It’s a great way to get to know the country at your own pace, a chance to focus more on the journey and your traveling companions, and less on your destination. And, hey, it’s a cheap vacation option, right?

Well, maybe. Road trips can be an economical way to travel, but they can also turn into budget busters if you’re not careful.

Here are a few tips to help you minimize the hit to your wallet when you hit the road:

  • Plan your route. A little advance planning goes a long way toward controlling costs. Start by mapping the route you plan to travel to know how many days and miles your trip will involve. There are numerous websites available to help; one of the most comprehensive is AAA’s well-known TripTik. Be sure to customize your agenda to suit your needs, and build in some spare time for spontaneous exploration.
  • Cut your gas costs. GasBuddy’s trip cost calculator will help you estimate your cost for gas. You enter your starting point and destination, and your car’s make, model and year, to determine how much you will need. On the road, GasBuddy’s smartphone app will help you find the lowest prices. For better gas mileage, don’t forget basic good-driving practices: Keep your tires properly inflated, maintain a steady speed, avoid sudden stops and fast starts, obey the speed limits.
  • Cut your food costs. The key here is to avoid the roadside fast-food restaurants and convenience stores. Start by packing some healthy snacks that travel well, such as nuts, granola bars and dried fruit. A reusable water bottle will save you a lot of money on drinks. Visit grocery stores as you travel. It’s cheaper than eating out, and it’s a chance to see the variety of foods that are available in different parts of the country. And, when it’s time for a restaurant meal, Roadfood authors Michael and Jane Stern have a website that’ll help you find the local standouts.
  • Consider camping. You have room for the equipment, so why not turn this trip into a real adventure? You can find federally managed campgrounds nationwide, as well as day use sites, permit locations and wilderness areas, and tours for local attractions, museums and educational facilities, online. If the outdoor life isn’t for you, try apps from Hotels.com, Priceline or Orbitz for hotel deals.
  • Find the free stuff. It’s easy to find free or low-cost entertainment on the road. Start with the official tourism websites of the states and cities you’ll be visiting. They’ll often have links to free things to do. See if any museums in the areas you’re passing through offer free admission days. Check out local parks and libraries for free concerts, lectures or plays. And, in the summer, watch for fairs, festivals and art shows.

Done right, a road trip can be the perfect vacation: fun, enlightening and inexpensive. Follow these tips, and you might be able to afford two of them this season.


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Topics: Travel

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