How to Save Money on a Road Trip

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Hey, Fabulous Followers!  Check out the latest guest post from David about how to save money on a road trip.  See his bio at the end of the post. 

As a traveler and a family man, I know how challenging it can be to go places. There are so many things to worry about especially the expenses. My family and I have been traveling by RV for six months now. I admit that it is an enjoyable experience, but there are also many things to consider.

One thing that we have to worry about is the budget. We have to make sure that we have enough food on top of fuel and maintenance fees. In the past, when we didn’t have an RV yet, we traveled by car and worried about lodging which adds to the expenses.

Since we have a daughter, it is essential that she enjoy the road trip as much as we do. My wife and I make sure that we research free attractions to pass by whenever we go on trips. We want our daughter to grow up adventurous and to appreciate the simple things in life. Vacations and road trips need not put a hole in your pocket; you just need to be resourceful and plan wisely.

I have decided to write about my traveling experiences and share tips on how to save money on a road trip. Hopefully, all you travelers out there learn many things from this article.


How to Save Money on a Road Trip

Plan your Trip

Get a map and research routes, where you want to go, and how far you are from important establishments. For example, if it is peak vacation season, most lodging places may already be fully booked. It is best to book your place months before your scheduled vacation. Most hotels offer discounts if you book early. This practice also helps you avoid hustling for a place to stay.

Check the area around the hotel, too. If it is far from the tourist spots or activity areas, you may have to spend more on fuel or transportation to reach them. Find places where you can walk to places of interest such as parks, cinemas, shopping centers, and supermarkets.

Purchase guidebooks and take advantage of free attractions. You can visit them free or at discounted prices, just do your research. There are many free attractions in the US such as museums, art galleries, parks, historic sites, and music festivals.

Check out the roads and search for alternative routes. Avoid congested roads and heavy traffic. Save on fuel by avoiding these roads. Bring a map and don’t rely on GPS. You can also avoid toll roads and use the parallel roads that have minor traffic.

Plan your Fuel Purchase

Gas up before your trip instead of relying on remote gas stations that are more expensive. You should purchase gas early in the morning where gas is denser, so you get more fuel in each pump. Also, fuel is cheaper at the start of the week. If you have a credit card that offers rebates, use it to purchase a full tank.

There are mobile apps that you can install and helps you locate cheap fuel in your area. Apps such as Gas Buddy, Gas Guru, Waze, and Dash are some of the apps that help you find gas stations. You can install them on both Android and iOS phones.

Maintenance and Tuning Up

Before leaving for a trip, especially a long one, take your vehicle to the mechanic and have it tuned up. Your mechanic should check the oil, air filter, vehicle fluids (transmission fluid, brake fluid, power steering fluid, etc.), and tires. Prevent breakdowns and properly tune up your vehicle.  Save yourself from the hassle of costly repairs that cut your trip short. How long does a car inspection take as compared to the time it takes to repair damages? You’ll be thankful you prevented the damage and you can proceed with your trip worry-free.

Make sure you also bring emergency tools such as tire pressure gauge, portable jump starter, flashlights, rain gear, air compressor, and a spare tire. If you haven’t subscribed to a roadside assistance program, now is the time to do so. Roadside assistance is useful, especially on long trips.

Check your tires for signs of wear and tear. Before you leave, check the tire pressure and fill up or release air as needed. Your tires expand when it is hot, so it is best to check the tire pressure before you drive off. Improperly inflated tires also cause more stress on the engine and consume more fuel.

Pack Lightly

When packing lightly, it doesn’t mean that you can’t bring extra clothing. Take note of the weather and bring only what you need. If it’s summer and really warm, you don’t need to bring extra jeans or a sweater. If you must bring sneakers wear them and bring lighter footwear.

Roll your clothes to save space. Transfer liquids such as shampoo, lotion, conditioner, and cologne in small containers, so you don’t have to bring the whole bottle.

Pack the Necessities

Apart from clothes and snacks, bring necessary toiletries such as sunscreen, bug lotion, and bath items. While most hotels have bath items, you never know if they’ll run out. If it is summer, resorts sell sunscreen but are more expensive, so it is better to bring your own. Bring your own beach towels, mats, and headgear, too.

Don’t forget to bring the accessories for your gadgets such as chargers, selfie sticks, batteries, and earphones to avoid purchasing them from stores.

If you have children, pack small toys to keep them entertained and avoid temper tantrums on the road. This saves you from unnecessary stops where you might end up buying them expensive goodies just to keep them quiet.

If you have a pet, bring extra pet food so you don’t have to worry about purchasing more expensive ones during the trip. Otherwise, ask a close friend or family member if they can babysit your pet while you’re gone. This also saves you from paying extra for temporary pet lodging in case pets are not allowed.

How to Save Money on a Road Trip-2

Save on Food

Find coupons or vouchers that enable you to dine out for a discounted price. It’s all right to dine out once in awhile. has gift cards for restaurants and even supermarkets. Browse the website before a trip and find good deals.

Pack snacks in small containers or prepare sandwiches, so you don’t have to buy food all the time. Bring bottled water, juice, or milk and place them in a cooler. This is also useful especially when you are traveling with children.

You can also have a picnic on one of your pit stops. Include this in your route planning before you leave. Instead of dining at restaurants, why not try local food diners which also serve delicious food for a lower price.

Manage your Finances

If you need to use your credit card out of state or in another country, inform your bank. Some banks flag out of location transactions and place a hold on your card. Avoid the worry and adding to your mobile phone bill by calling them before your trip.

It is also best to bring cash and stay within the budget. You may end up saving on fuel and avoid driving around in search of an ATM.

Drive Safely and Avoid Heavy Loads

Sudden starts and stops affect fuel efficiency. Drive within the speed limit and save on gas. You also avoid costly speeding tickets if you drive within the speed range. Extra weight on your vehicle also results in higher fuel consumption. If you already have a trunk full of luggage, maybe it’s time to take out that ice cooler and settle for something lighter. You could also freeze your drinks in advance, wrap them in towels, and place them in bags to keep them cold. Ditch that bike rack on the roof if you don’t plan to bring a bike.

Free or Cheaper Housing

If you were unable to book a place to stay, contact a relative where you could crash. Use Airbnb to find more affordable and unique lodging instead of hotels that may already be fully booked. If you have never tried Airbnb before, you can get $40 toward your next trip by clicking here.  You could also bring a tent and camp out for the night.

Related:  6 Cheap Hotel Alternatives


I hope that you have learned a lot from this article. Road trips are a great experience for the whole family. It is a perfect time to relax and bond with them. Road trips don’t need to cost an arm and a leg just for you to get the best of it. There are so many things you can do for free without harming your budget yet still enjoy.

In my experiences as a traveler, we rarely encounter mishaps because we carefully prepare for the trips. Sometimes we schedule our trips a few months in advance so we can get cheaper deals. It also gives us time to prepare and save for the travel.

Do you also have stories to share about how to save money on road trips? We’d love to hear your tips, suggestions, and feedback. If you also have stories, please share them, too. What are you waiting for? Nobody’s stopping you from taking that road trip. Plan now and enjoy your next road trip with your family and friends. Don’t forget to share this article with other adventurous people out there! Have fun!


Author bio: David loves cars and traveling by RV with his family. He shares everything about cars and RV living on his blog.


Have you taken a road trip before?  How do you save money on a road trip?


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  1. Ah, so glad you wrote this! I plan on having a lot of road trips in the next few years, so this is going to be saved for future use. So many great tips!

  2. Not opposed to packing lightly and I can see why it may save you some money, but honestly I see the biggest benefit of road trips being that you DON’T have to pack light since you have a lot more room than if you were flying.

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