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How to Save Money On A Road Trip: 8 Tips

Are you looking for a budget-friendly way to explore the country? Road trips can be a great way to see new places and create unforgettable memories without breaking the bank.

With some planning and smart strategies, you can save money on car rentals and travel expenses, making your road trip more affordable and enjoyable.

As you know, we like to travel by car, the road trip, to make miles and miles of roads is one of our favorite ways to travel. It must be because of the flexibility it gives you when it comes to discovering different places. And if you want to save money on a road trip, it’s even better!

Therefore, we have prepared this post with some tips – advice so that you can travel by car on a budget.

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How to Save Money On A Road Trip

Tips To Save Money On A Road Trip

If you want to save on your road trip, you can follow some or all of these tips. I hope they help you save money and so that money is not an excuse not to travel!!!

ghost towns, route 66, avilla

Where Do You Spend The Most Money On A Road Trip?

Most of the budget is spent on transportation and/or accommodation when you travel. On road trips, depending on the country you are going to and the number of kilometers you will do, the budget is usually taken up by gasoline and tolls.

toll booths with cars that you want to save money on a road trip

Planning Ahead

Planning ahead is crucial when it comes to taking a budget-friendly road trip. By taking the time to plan your trip in advance, you can save money on everything from car rental to accommodation and food.

In this section, we’ll cover some key areas to consider when planning your next road trip.

Google Maps

Google Maps is an essential tool for planning a road trip. Not only can you use it to get directions, but you can also use it to plan your route and estimate your travel time.

By using Google Maps, you can find the most direct route to your destination and avoid toll roads, which can save you money.

Route Planning

When planning your route, consider the distance you want to cover each day and the sights you want to see along the way.

Try to plan your route to cover as much ground as possible without spending too much time on the road. This will help you save money on gas and reduce wear and tear on your vehicle.

Another thing that we have learned from experience after not being able to visit some places, is to know their opening hours. It seems obvious, doesn’t it?

But for example, sometimes you arrive on a Monday at X place where you want to see a museum, and you know what? The museum is closed on Monday. I am sure it has happened to you too, right?

Road Trip Planner PDF
Travel planner to print at home

Another thing that has happened to us several times is assuming that what we want to visit closes at 6:00 pm, but sometimes they close at 3:00 pm, and so do many other things.

However, other times we have been lucky to arrive on a day when admission is free. So if you plan your route, you can avoid some disappointments and save money.

Accommodation Planning

Accommodation is one of the biggest expenses of a road trip, so it’s important to plan ahead. Consider staying in budget-friendly accommodations like hostels, motels, or even camping if you have the necessary equipment.

You can also use websites like Airbnb or Booking.com to find affordable accommodation options.

Budget Planning

Budget planning is essential for a budget-friendly road trip. Start by setting a daily budget for food, gas, and accommodation.

You can use a spreadsheet or budgeting app to track your expenses and make adjustments as needed.

In conclusion, planning ahead is key to taking a budget-friendly road trip. By using tools like Google Maps and planning your route, accommodation, and budget in advance, you can save money and make the most of your trip.

Where To Sleep? Budget-friendly Accommodation Options

When planning a budget-friendly road trip, accommodation is one of the biggest expenses. Fortunately, there are several options available that can help you save money on your trip.

a rental white van on a paved road with a view of a sandy beach to save money on a road trip


Camping is one of the most affordable accommodation options for road trips. It allows you to get closer to nature and enjoy the great outdoors.

Most campsites offer basic amenities like restrooms, showers, and picnic tables. Some campsites even have electricity and water hookups for RVs.

Here are a few tips to save money on camping:

  • Look for free campsites on public lands like national forests and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands.
  • Consider purchasing a National Parks Pass to save money on entrance fees and camping fees.
  • Bring your own camping gear to avoid rental fees.
  • Plan your meals and bring your own food to save money on dining out.

Hotels and Motels

Hotels and motels are popular for road trippers who want a comfortable and convenient place to stay. While they may be more expensive than camping, there are ways to save money on hotels and motels.

Here are a few tips to save money on hotels and motels:

  • Book your accommodation in advance to get the best rates.
  • Look for hotels and motels that offer free breakfast, parking, and Wi-Fi.
  • Consider staying in hotels and motels outside of major cities, where rates tend to be higher.
  • Use hotel booking websites and apps to compare prices and find the best deals.

Alternative Accommodation

If you’re looking for a unique and budget-friendly accommodation option, consider alternative options like Airbnb and Couchsurfing.

Airbnb allows you to rent a room or an entire home from a local host. This can be a great option if you want to experience the local culture and save money on dining out.

Couchsurfing is a platform that connects travelers with hosts who are willing to offer a free place to stay. This can be a great option if you’re on a tight budget and want to meet new people.


RV or Camper van

If you have a car or an RV, car camping can be a great budget-friendly accommodation option. It allows you to park your vehicle in a designated camping area and sleep in your car or RV.

Here are a few tips to save money on car camping:

  • Look for free car camping areas on public lands like national forests and BLM lands.
  • Bring your own camping gear to avoid rental fees.
  • Plan your meals and bring your own food to save money on dining out.

Overall, there are several budget-friendly accommodation options available for road trippers. Whether you prefer camping, hotels and motels, or alternative accommodation, there are ways to save money on your trip.

Do you like to travel by camper van or motorhome? Read this post with tips for beginners.

Where to Eat? Eating and Drinking on a Budget

Another peak of the budget is spent on food. We all know that eating out is expensive unless you go to Southeast Asia. And on top of that, I love to try the gastronomy of the places I visit, but if the budget is tight, we go to the supermarket ;).

Eating Out

Eating out can be expensive, but there are ways to save money while still enjoying local restaurants.

One way is to look for happy hour and early bird specials, where you can often find discounted prices on food and drinks. Another option is to look for coupons or deals online before you arrive at your destination.

Additionally, consider sharing meals with your travel companions or ordering appetizers instead of full meals.

Local Cuisine

One of the best parts of road trips is experiencing local cuisine. However, this can quickly add up if you’re not careful. To save money, consider visiting local markets and grocery stores to pick up fresh produce and ingredients for meals.

This can also be a fun way to try new foods and flavors. Additionally, look for food trucks and street vendors, which often offer affordable and delicious local dishes.

Coffee and Snacks

Coffee and snacks are essential for any road trip, but they can also be a big expense. To save money on coffee, consider bringing a travel mug and brewing your own coffee in the morning.

You can also look for gas stations and convenience stores that offer free coffee refills. For snacks, consider packing your own healthy options like fruit, nuts, and granola bars. This can also be a great way to avoid unhealthy and expensive fast food options.

Save Money On A Road Trip with a Portable Fridge

Bringing a portable cooler is almost mandatory to keep your drinks cool. You do not have to go to a gas station, supermarket, or bar whenever you want to drink something.

There are many models of portable refrigerators. Some are the typical ones that cool with ice. Buying ice at a supermarket is always better because it’s cheaper. It is free at any motel if you are in the United States.

The other option is a portable refrigerator that works with electricity. It can be connected to the car’s cigarette lighter or directly to the power source. They are a bit more expensive, but then you save on ice. We have paid up to 3€ for a bag of ice in Europe…

Take Your GPS With You

If you are traveling in Europe and have a mobile line from a European operator, you can use data, and Google Maps usually works very well.

a GPS to use to save money on a road trip

But if not, the best thing is to bring a GPS with the maps of the country you are visiting. It is key to saving money since you can indicate it to avoid tolls.

Although you will have to check if avoiding tolls is profitable for you so as not to make the gas more expensive than the tolls! Or that takes you on the route that consumes the least fuel.

Efficient Driving

And last but not least, efficient driving is essential. You will not be saving money throughout the trip to end up rushing on the road, wasting extra gasoline, polluting, and even risking getting a ticket or several…

Here is a link to a fascinating article in the magazine with 10 keys for efficient driving.

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Making A Good Packing List

Packing well can save you a lot of money. Think about what you will need so you don’t forget anything and have to buy it on the way.

I do not mean to say that you should leave with the house on your back, but for example, if you check the weather that you will have during your road trip, you might realize that you may need a raincoat or a coat. A pair of hiking boots if you plan on doing some hiking, a swimsuit, etc…

Saving on Travel Expenses

Road trips can be a great way to see the country without breaking the bank. However, it’s important to keep an eye on your travel expenses to make sure you stay within your budget.

Here are some tips for saving money on your road trip travel expenses.

Car Rental Tips

When it comes to renting a car for your road trip, there are a few things you can do to save money. First, shop around for the best deal. Check with multiple rental companies to find the best rates, and don’t forget to look for discounts.

Many rental companies offer discounts for AAA members, military personnel, and other groups.

Another way to save money on car rental is to consider using a service like Turo. Turo is like Airbnb for cars, allowing you to rent a car directly from its owner. This can often be cheaper than renting from a traditional rental company.

Finally, be sure to check the car insurance options carefully. Many rental companies offer insurance packages that can add up quickly.

Check with your own car insurance company to see if you’re covered for rental cars, and consider declining the rental company’s insurance if you are.

route los angeles san diego

Gas and Tolls

Gas and tolls can be a significant expense on a road trip. To save money on gas, consider using a gas app like GasBuddy to find the cheapest gas prices along your route. You can also save money by driving at a steady speed and avoiding rapid acceleration and braking.

To save money on tolls, consider using a toll calculator to plan your route and avoid toll roads whenever possible. You can also consider getting an E-ZPass or other electronic toll payment system to save time and money.

Food and Groceries

Food can be another significant expense on a road trip. To save money on food, consider packing your own snacks and meals. You can also save money by shopping for groceries instead of eating out for every meal.

Look for grocery stores along your route and stock up on snacks, drinks, and meal ingredients.

Activities and Attractions

Finally, consider your activities and attractions carefully to save money. Look for free or low-cost activities like hiking, visiting parks, and exploring local museums.

You can also save money by using services like Couchsurfing or Airbnb to find affordable accommodations or by renting a campervan or RV for your trip.

By following these tips, you can save money on your road trip and enjoy all the sights and experiences along the way. With a little planning and creativity, you can enjoy a great road trip for as little as $50 a day.

Exploring National Parks and Natural Wonders

One of the best ways to experience the beauty of the United States is by exploring its national parks and natural wonders. Not only are they breathtakingly beautiful, but they are also affordable and offer a wide range of activities for all ages.

Here are some tips on how to make the most of your national park road trip while staying within your budget.

National Parks

National parks are the perfect destination for budget-friendly road trips. With a $80 annual pass, you can visit any national park in the country for free. If you plan to visit multiple parks during your trip, this pass can save you a lot of money.

When visiting national parks, consider camping instead of staying in hotels. Most parks have campgrounds that offer affordable rates and beautiful views. Plus, camping lets you fully immerse yourself in nature and experience the park after hours when most tourists have left.

Vista del Grand Canyon

Scenic Routes

Scenic routes are another great way to explore the natural beauty of the United States. These routes offer stunning views and unique stops along the way.

Some of the most popular scenic routes include the Pacific Coast Highway in California, the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia and North Carolina, and the Great River Road in the Midwest.

When planning your road trip, be sure to research the scenic routes in the areas you will be visiting. List the stops you want to make along the way and plan your route accordingly. This will help you stay on budget and make the most of your time on the road.

Napa Valley vineyards


National parks and scenic routes are not the only places to explore natural wonders. Plenty of other stops along the way offer unique experiences and breathtaking views. Some popular stops include waterfalls, canyons, and hot springs.

When planning your stops, consider the activities that are available and the cost. Some stops may require an entrance fee or parking fee, so be sure to include these costs in your budget.

Additionally, research free activities in the area, such as hiking or picnicking, to save money while still enjoying the beauty of nature.

Road Trip Logistics

Planning a budget-friendly road trip requires attention to detail, especially regarding logistics. Here are some tips to help you save money on car rental and travel expenses.

Packing Tips

Packing smart can save you money on baggage fees and make your trip more comfortable. Here are some tips to help you pack efficiently:

  • Pack light: Only bring what you need and avoid overpacking.
  • Use packing cubes: These can help you organize your luggage and save space.
  • Bring reusable water bottles: This can save you money on drinks and reduce plastic waste.
  • Pack snacks: Bringing your own snacks can save you money on food expenses.

Car Maintenance

Before hitting the road, make sure your car is in good condition to avoid unexpected expenses. Here are some car maintenance tips:

  • Check the oil and other fluids: Make sure the oil, coolant, and windshield wiper fluid are at the recommended levels.
  • Check the tires: Make sure the tires are properly inflated and have enough tread.
  • Check the brakes: Make sure the brakes are in good condition and responsive.
  • Have a full tank of gas: This can save you money on gas expenses, especially if you use GasBuddy to find the cheapest gas prices along your route.
Classic Car

Parking and Fees

Parking and fees can add up quickly, so it’s important to plan ahead. Here are some tips to help you save money on parking and fees:

  • Research parking options: Look for free or low-cost parking options, such as street parking or park-and-ride lots.
  • Avoid toll roads: Use a GPS app to find alternative routes that avoid toll roads.
  • Plan for entrance fees: If you plan to visit national parks or other attractions, check the entrance fees beforehand and plan accordingly.

By following these tips, you can save money on car rental and travel expenses and enjoy a budget-friendly road trip.

More Tips on How to Save Money On A Road Trip

Here are more tips for saving money on your road trip when visiting cities, countries, and more!

  • Look for free activities: Save money on a road trip by choosing free or discounted tours and activities like hiking trails, parks, and museums.
  • Bring refillable water bottles: Be eco-friendly with refillable water bottles. Don’t spend money buying tons of bottled water during a road trip.
  • Use public transportation in cities: Usually, you either rent a car or bring your own car on a road trip. But when you are staying in a city or town for a night, use public transport and save money on gas.
  • Annual Road Trip Travel Insurance: Consider getting an annual travel insurance policy that covers multiple road trips. This can save you on insurance costs, especially if you take several road trips a year.
  • Search for discounts: Save money on your road trip by researching and asking for discounts on car rentals, hotels, and restaurants, which many companies offer for booking in advance or for specific organizations.

Overall, taking a budget-friendly road trip can be a wonderful way to explore new places and make lasting memories. By following these tips and being mindful of your expenses, you can enjoy the open road without breaking the bank.

Road Trips Around The World

Last Updated on 7 September, 2023 by Veronica

Disclosure: Some of the links on this post are affiliate links, meaning at no additional cost to you, I may earn a small commission if you click through and make a purchase.

Author: Veronica

Vero, a seasoned traveler, has explored 25 countries and lived in five, gaining a rich perspective and fostering an infectious passion for travel. With a heart full of wanderlust, Vero uncovers the world’s hidden gems and shares insights, tips, and planning advice to inspire and assist fellow adventurers. Join Vero and let the shared passion for travel create unforgettable memories.


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