For vacations, driving was usually our family's method of transportation. If we could get there on roads, we’d pile into the car whether it meant two or 22 hours in close quarters. It was economical and it appealed those who feared flying (in my family that’s pretty much everyone). Here are some tips we learned over the years on how to make a road trip both fun and cheap.
1. Getting There & Gas
The No.1 piece of advice I have is to think of the vacation starting with the road trip. This means the road trip won’t just be an expense but a part of the fun!
With that in mind, consider your route carefully. You want to weigh taking expensive toll roads and the amount of time it might take to avoid them. It could be worth taking a longer and more scenic route if you can save a good amount of tolls and also increase the fun.
As for filling up on fuel, you may want to consider downloading some cheap or free apps to help you find the lowest-priced gas stations along the route. It can also be a good idea to have a map on hand so you don’t waste time, gas and money getting lost.
2. Making Stops
My family tends to skip hotel stays even on the longer road trips. But if you prefer to stop to sleep (good if you don’t have multiple drivers or everyone is too tired to properly concentrate), consider camping or home rentals over hotels. Another option is to use this opportunity to either cash in on rewards points or to earn some. If you road-trip frequently, consider joining a hotel loyalty program to earn free stays or a credit card that is geared toward frequent travelers.
Drive-thru restaurants can be surprisingly expensive and not too satisfying. The easiest way to save money on food for road trips is to bring it with you. This can mean a cooler or insulated bag to keep food cold or it can mean picking foods that won’t spoil easily. Of course foods that aren’t messy make for better eating on the go. Sandwiches are a good fallback as are pretzels, bananas and most vegetables.
4. Start Saving Early
Another way to save money on your road trip is to save up ahead of time. This way, even if you use your credit cards to earn rewards points or cash back, you can pay off your credit card bill in total. Paying interest on a vacation can quickly make it a lot more expensive.
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