10 Surprising Tips on How to Save Money on a Road Trip

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Are you wondering how to save money on a road trip?

Embarking on a road trip is a thrilling adventure that allows you to explore new places at your own pace. However, costs can add up quickly if you’re not careful.

But fear not! In this article, you’ll discover 10 surprising tips on how to save money on a road trip. That way, you can ensure a wallet-friendly and unforgettable journey.

Continue reading below to find out the best ways to save money on your road trip.

how to save money on a road trip
Learn how to save money on a road trip.

CONTENTS — In this article, you will learn how to save money on a road trip with 10 easy tips, including:

How to Save Money on a Road Trip

Are you gearing up for the ultimate road trip, where the open road beckons with the promise of new experiences and boundless excitement?

Just imagine, the wind tousling your hair, your favorite tunes setting the soundtrack, and a liberating sense of exploration filling the air.

A road trip, after all, is synonymous with freedom and adventure. Travel is like pleasure therapy for most people who love it.

The most popular time of year for road trips is summer. In fact, 40% of Americans planned to take a road trip during the summer months of 2022.

Yet one question keeps popping up in your mind: how to save money on a road trip?

Before you floor the gas pedal and let the wind guide you, let’s look into this common concern. You want to make sure your finances aren’t destroyed by this exhilarating adventure!

After you read the road trip-saving strategies below, you won’t have to scratch your head anymore.

So, let’s dig into how you can save money on your road trip and put an end to that nagging question once and for all.

Best Ways to Save Money On A Road Trip

Saving money on a road trip requires a combination of careful planning, resourcefulness, and smart decision-making.

Here are the top 10 ways to save money on a road trip.

1. Choose Your Route Efficiently

plan road trip route | Enjoy Travel Life
Your route and driving habits can save (or cost) you money!

Planning your road trip route efficiently can save both your time and money.

Therefore, it’s a good idea to always use trusted navigation apps. Google Maps or Waze will help you find the shortest and most fuel-efficient ways. You’ll avoid unnecessary detours and traffic congestion, so it will reduce your fuel consumption and travel time.

You can travel many toll-free roads in the United States, too.

These roads are typically located in rural areas, but they can be a great way to save money on tolls if you’re traveling through these areas.

Surprisingly, another way to reduce your fuel costs is to pack light. The lighter your car, the better your gas mileage will be. That way, you can travel further without taxing your gas tank.

According to The U.S. Department of Energy, aggressive driving (high speeds, rapid acceleration, and braking) also consumes a lot more gas. In fact, doing so can reduce your gas mileage by 15% to 30% on highways and 10% to 40% in stop-and-go traffic.

Saving fuel cost
Saving fuel on trips leads to saving travel expenses on road trips

You may have heard of Gas Buddy to find the nearest gas station and compare rates. But did you know they offer a free rewards card with fuel discounts of up to 25 cents per gallon? You can also connect the card straight to your checking account to pay for gas.

One of GasBuddy’s most helpful features when planning your drive is the “Trip Cost Calculator.” This feature is not included in the app but you can access it from your desktop device.

This tool is especially handy when you’re estimating the cost of your road trip.

2. Track Your Expenses and Adjust Your Budget

Another way to save money on your road trip is to keep good records.

According to a report by Business Insider, 61% of Americans find tracking their expenses helpful in managing their money.

This is helpful on road trips, too.

When you keep track of your expenses throughout the trip, you can adjust your budget accordingly. And when you can uncover areas of overspending, you can then make any necessary modifications to your spending to stay on budget.

3. Book Affordable, Alternative Accommodations

The cheapest way to travel in the US can vary depending on your specific circumstances and preferences.

You’ll find many different types of accommodations when you’re booking your overnight stays. But it doesn’t have to be pricey. After all, you’ll probably just be spending some time to get rest before heading back to the road.

So, consider alternatives to standard hotels. This is especially important when you’re trying to figure out how to save money on a road trip.

Good options include camping, renting a room in a private home, or using accommodation-sharing sites like Airbnb. You’ll rest easier knowing you’re not overextending your budget.

According to a study by Hipcamp, camping can be up to 80% cheaper than staying in a hotel. This provides you with both cost savings and an immersive experience in nature!

If you’re a seasoned traveler, you already know that things don’t always go according to plan on road trips.

That makes it all the more important to be flexible with your itinerary. Regardless of the accommodations you choose, be prepared to change things up if there’s bad weather or if you get stuck in traffic and arrive late.

4. Pack Your Own Snacks and Meals

Snacks and Meals
Always take snacks with you to reduce travel expenses.

If you want to plan a road trip on a budget, you can save money by packing your own food. That way, you’ll have the foods you enjoy at the ready, and you can save on restaurant expenses.

When you eat out for every meal, your funds will quickly dwindle.

According to a study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2021, the average household spent $3,365 per year on dining out away from home, which includes restaurants, cafes, and fast food.

By packing easy meals to-go, you’ll have complete control over the ingredients and portion sizes. Choosing healthier options has the added benefit of keeping your energy levels up throughout the trip.

Be sure to pack any meals you prepare and other snacks in a cooler to keep them fresh.

And pack reusable water bottles and coffee mugs, too. These will save you money on disposable containers — as well being more eco-friendly.

5. Use Mobile Apps and Coupon Websites to Find Discounts

You may be overlooking a money-saving opportunity in plain sight: apps and coupon sites.

When you use mobile apps and websites like Clothingric.com, you’ll find discounts on accommodations, gas stations, attractions, and dining. This breadth of options ensures that you are not only saving money but also enjoying a diverse range of experiences.

Similarly, apps like GasBuddy can help you find the cheapest gas prices near your location, and Hotel Tonight provides last-minute hotel deals.

According to a survey by Statista, 57% of Smartphones are used by travelers for travel-related activities in the U.S.

So you should use these tools to your advantage! They’re a great resource when you’re focusing on how to save money on a road trip.

6. Avoid Peak Travel Times

Like any trip you take, the time of year you go on vacation will affect the costs.

In fact, 61% of Americans say that they are willing to make changes to their travel plans in order to save money.

Are you?

If so, you want to avoid planning your road trip during peak season travel. This budget-friendly travel strategy will help you avoid higher prices associated with popular tourist times.

Better yet, you’ll likely also avoid the crowds.

By traveling during off-peak times, you’ll have the opportunity to explore destinations and attractions at your own pace. And, you’re better positioned to land more reasonably-priced accommodations, cheap flights, hotels, and activities.

The end result will be a more authentic and serene experience with a better price-tag.

7. Use A Travel Credit Card

Travel Credit Card
Using Travel Credit Cards can help keep your travel budget under control.

Many travel credit cards offer rewards points or miles that you can redeem for travel expenses. This can help you save money on your road trip.

According to a study by NerdWallet in 2022, 36% of Americans said that they saved money on their last road trip by using a travel credit card.

So, if you haven’t started playing the “travel hacking” game, why not get started? To do so, you’ll strategically use credit card points or miles to get discounted travel offers and perks.

You’ll need to do a little research on the best credit card programs for travel hacking–but the rewards can really pay off! Moreover, consider checking if your Chase credit card includes car rental insurance, adding an extra layer of protection and savings to your travel plans.

8. Carry a Repair Kit and Emergency Supplies

As you hit the road, bring a well-stocked repair kit and emergency supplies with you. They will serve as your safety net and make sure you’re ready to deal with any unexpected twists and turns of your adventure.

Being prepared for unforeseen roadside issues can save you money.

Be sure to carry a basic repair kit, spare tire, and emergency supplies to address any small difficulties without having to pay costly towing or repair fees. A good roadside assistance service can be a lifesaver, too.

Whether it’s a minor vehicle malfunction or unanticipated events, being prepared can save the day. That way, you can continue on your road trip as planned, and maintain your peace of mind.

9. Seek Affordable Activities and Entertainment

forest bathing | Enjoy Travel Life
Plan cost-effective activities and visit free attractions on your road trip.

Exploring cost-effective or free attractions and entertainment along your route can be a cheap way to have fun when you travel by car. You’ll find plenty of great places to visit without spending a penny!

For instance, many public beaches and hiking trails are free. In the summer, many museums are free on certain days.

And according to the National Park Service’s website, the average entrance fee for a single vehicle to a national park is $35. That’s a budget-friendly stop, given the scenic beauty and awe of the experience.

Before you go, do some research on the places you’re planning to visit to find free or low-cost activities to do. You might be surprised at what you can include on your itinerary without adding much to your budget.

10. Share Expenses with Travel Companions

If you’re traveling with friends or family, consider sharing your expenses. Paying for accommodations, gas, and food is easier when you’re not paying for it all yourself.

Splitting costs can significantly reduce the financial burden and helps everyone save money.

In fact, according to a study by Skift, 24% of U.S. travelers prefer sharing economy accommodations to save money.

So if you were thinking of taking a road trip alone, instead, invite a friend!

Final Thoughts on How to Save Money on a Road Trip

You can easily embark on an economical road trip across the diverse landscapes of the United States or elsewhere. It can truly be an exciting and fulfilling adventure!

To answer the question, “How to travel cheaply in the USA?”, you now have a plethora of insightful money-saving strategies for your road trip.

The art of affordable travel is a combination of rigorous planning, deliberate expenditure, and a willingness to embrace a more economical approach to road-tripping.

In the end, you may even have funds left over to starting plan your next road trip!


Jackie Gately at the beach


About Jackie Gately, editor-IN-CHIEF

I'm Jackie Gately, your travel confidante and the creative force behind Enjoy Travel Life, awarded the "Best Casual-Luxury Lifestyle Blog (USA)" in Travel and Tourism by LUXlife Magazine for four consecutive years.

With 25 years of published expertise, I'm a seasoned writer, editor, and photographer curating inspiring travel guides and lifestyle tips for empty nesters. I hope to kindle your spirit of exploration, encouraging you to overcome obstacles and turn your dreams into reality.

Learn to minimize your pre-travel angst and maximize the joy of exploration with insights from my experiences. Let's make every adventure a celebration of this exciting phase of life! 

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Scenic road for a budget trip
Road trip savings jar
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