How to Save Money on a Road Trip

Traveling can be great or it can be a nightmare of unexpected expenses. But you can do your best to make your road trip the best it can be with a little of planning ahead of time. In this podcast I’m sharing tips for How to save money on a road trip.

Plus a few tips to help you get your car ready.

A blue van on the road on a trip.

In this episode of the Frugal Family Home podcast, I’m sharing road trip tips to help you save money and avoid problems with your car while you are traveling.

If you take the time to plan ahead and do a few things before you leave it can help you enjoy your road trip and stay on budget too.

Save Money on Your Next Road Trip with these 9 Tips

1. Set a Budget

Sure it’s great to hit the open road without a care in the world, but doing so can put a dent in your budget.

It’s a given you’ll need to plan your route but what about planning for your expenses?

Be sure to take into account how much you’ll be spending. You’ll need to have your car checked out before you leave. You’ll need gas money, money for food, and lodging.

As you are planning your route look into the costs of each of these on your stops along the way. You might be able to stay in a smaller town and save money. Or find a great deal on gas just a few miles away from your destination.

Planning the route on a map for a road trip.

2. Plan Your Route

Now that you know you need to budget for your trip, it’s time to plan your route. What destinations would you like to go to? Where will you stop at along the way?

Use Google Maps or MapQuest or even AAATripTik. To help you plan your route and make the most of where you’ll be traveling.

Be sure to have maps for where you’ll be traveling, AAA is a great place to get these, because you never know when your GPS might stop working.

3. Get Your Car Serviced Before Your Road Trip

Before you leave for your trip get your car service by a mechanic. Have them do a general checkout and check fluids and tires. If something need servicing get it done.

Be sure to have all repairs completed a few weeks to a month before your road trip. This can help to make sure the repair is good and there isn’t something more that needs to be done.

Be sure to check your tire pressure, lights, and fluid in your car the day before leaving.

If you don’t know how to do this, take it to your mechanic, check your owner’s manual of your car, or check YouTube for a tutorial to learn how.

Taking a little time to service your car before you leave on your road trip can save you lots of money on car repairs on the road.

4. Save On Gas

Find the cheapest fuel prices along your route. Use GasBuddy or the GasBuddy App to find the best prices to where you’ll be traveling.

GasBuddy has a trip cost calculator to estimate how much it will cost for gas from one place to the next. And they also have a gas price map so you can see the average price of fuel across the United States. Making it easier to plan your gas budget.

AAATripTik is also great for finding construction along your route and finding the best gas prices and estimated gas costs too.

And checking these items on your car can help you save on gas too.

Properly inflate your tires. If your tires are low, it can decrease your gas mileage.

Don’t over pack, if your car is loaded down with more things than you need it will decrease your gas mileage.

Keep a consistent speed, when you can. Use your cruise control to keep your speed consistent can save you money when you are on the highway or freeway.

Drive the speed limit. Speeding up and slowing down with traffic might make you feel like you are getting there faster. But often it results in unnecessary wear and tear on your car and uses more gas.

Avoid rush hour traffic if possible. Take the time to see the local sites or eat dinner during rush hour. No use wasting gas just sitting still in traffic.

A van at the beach for a road trip.

5. Pack Essentials

You don’t want to over-pack but you want to bring the essentials you’ll need.

You want to pack items you know you will use. Because if you pack too much, it will be hard to find anything and only add the to weight of the car which affects gas mileage.

Make a list of the essential items you’ll need for the trip and pack those items. If there are items, you might need leave them behind. If they truly become essential, you can pick them up if needed.

Use your best judgement on what you’ll need and be sure to include those items.

6. Meals and Snacks

Eating out can be expensive but I’ll have a few tips for you next about that. When you pack your own food, you can really save money.

If you’ll be camping, then bringing your own food is essential since most campsites are out of the way. But if you’ll be stopping at lodging along the way, it’s still good to pack your own food.

If you are staying in hotels or motels, find places that offer a free breakfast. Or look for lodging with kitchenette. Even a small refrigerator and microwave can help you make breakfast in your room.

Bring homemade breakfast sandwiches or burritos. Or go to the grocery store and buy some. Either option will save you money over stopping and eating out.

Lunches can be easy to make ahead or make on the road. If you plan on having a picnic lunch each day, you can make your own sandwiches with items you purchase at a local grocery store.

Buy lunchmeat, bread, cheese, condiments and make your own sandwiches. Buy chips and maybe a package of cookies and you have lunch. And it will cost you so much less than fast food too.

Snacks are easy to pack and bring with you. Buy the small snack sized baggies, I get mine at the dollar store, and pack your own individual snacks for everyone. Buying the big packages and making the individually packs yourself can really save you money over individual packages of snacks you buy.

Be sure to bring an ice chest to store your food from the grocery store that needs to be chilled and buy your own bottled water.

You can freeze the bottled water and use it to chill your food on the way. Then as it thaws, you can drink the water. Saving room and you don’t have to buy ice either.

Relaxing in a van on vacation on a road trip.

7. Lodging

As you are planning your route it’s best to plan ahead and make reservations for where you’ll be staying. Whether it will be a campsite, a hotel, or Airbnb you’ll need somewhere to sleep. Unless you plan on napping in the car on the way.

When you book ahead, you can get the best prices and avoid the no vacancy signs too.

When booking your accommodations be sure to check to see if you have a refrigerator and microwave in the room.

Or better yet get a room with a kitchenette so you can make your own meals while you are there. A little extra in the room’s cost can save you more than eating out for every meal.

8. Eating Out

A vacation isn’t a vacation without eating out at least once. It’s nice to splurge every once in a while and if you plan ahead, you can save money too.

Look for restaurants where kids can eat free. Be sure to check for recommendations on Yelp to find the best places to eat and get an estimate on the costs too.

Ask a local where they eat. Often there will be local gems to find a great meal.

Eat at chain restaurants and use gift card. You can find discount gift cards at places like Gift Card Granny or But one word of caution, if you spend more when using a gift card, it will be better to use cash.

9. Bring Cash

I know everyone says don’t travel with cash but you never know when you might need cash because a credit card doesn’t work or you need money for a toll. It’s better to be prepared with some cash on hand.

Those are the 9 tips to help you save money on your next road trip. I hope you have found something new to help make your next road trip the best one yet.

Traveling in a van on a road trip to save money.

More Money Saving Tips…

12 Remarkable Tips to Save on Groceries
How to Save Money Even If You’re a Spender

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