How to save money on a family road trip.
My family and I are currently in the process of preparing for a spring break road trip. We are so excited to spend quality time together and look forward to visiting a few sights, like the Grand Canyon, Zion National Park, and more! Traveling by car can be a very frugal way to sight see, but like any vacation, expenses will add up quickly. Today I’m sharing a few tips to help you road trip on a budget.
Budget Friendly Road Trip Hacks
I am a huge proponent of the fact that you can still have FUN, enjoy life, and live on a BUDGET. It’s possible!! Planning a vacation around a road trip is a great way to have fun without spending a lot of money. However, expenses can add up on, even when traveling by vehicle.
So, here are a few ways you can save money on a family road trip…so that you can spend your hard earned money in other ways.
1. Plan Ahead
One of the most important parts of road tripping on a budget is to plan ahead. I suggest planning for your road trip a few months in advance (or as soon as you decide to travel). There are a lot of factors to consider when making a good road trip plan. Don’t forget to include:
- Making a budget (don’t forget to include gas, food, attractions, and miscellaneous)
- Researching/planning places to eat, sleep and things to do
- Meal planning/prep for foods you will pack and make yourself
- Looking over the best route for driving
As you are making your road trip plan be sure you plan as frugally as possible using the tips below. Give yourself enough time to research and plan ahead so that you will be able to find the most affordable options and frugal hacks.
- Related: The Best Budget Travel Tips
How To Save Money on Road Trip Food
There are many ways to save money on road trip food. Below are a few of my favorite hacks!
2. Pack Your Own Food
One of my favorite parts of road tripping is the food. There is just nothing better than munching on snacks, while listening to a good audiobook, and watching the scenery go by! To save money on road trip food is important to pack as much as you can from home.
Buying food from gas stations and restaurants will get expensive fast. And most tourist grocery stores will have higher prices than your local grocery store. However, if you plan ahead (remember that little planning tip we already talked about 😉 ) and pack your own food in the car, you will be able to save a lot of money.
Here are a few of our favorite food to pack on a road trip:
- Fresh fruit
- Carrot sticks
- Deli sandwiches
- Bagels with cream cheese
- Peanut butter sandwich
- Granola bars
- Pita wraps
3. Skip Restaurants & Eat At The Grocery Store
Ok, hear me out on this one!
If you don’t love the idea of packing your own food for your budget friendly road trip, then consider stopping at grocery stores along the way to eat your meals, rather than stopping at restaurants to eat.
You can get delicious, high quality food at grocery stores, with much lower prices than you would spend at a restaurant. We love stopping at grocery stores for foods like deli sandwiches, friend chicken, fresh fruit and salads. Try it, you just might like it!
4. Stay At An Airbnb
Staying at an Airbnb is an easy way to save money on food expenses. Most Airbnbs will give you access to a full kitchen, making it possible to cook all of your own meals, instead of eating out.
However, make sure to look at all of the hidden costs when booking an Airbnb to ensure that you really will be saving money. The cleaning and extra fees can really add up, which means that sometimes it isn’t always the cheapest option!
5. Stay In A Hotel With A Microwave/Fridge
You don’t have to book accommodations with a full kitchen to cook your own meals. A hotel room with a microwave and fridge will provide all that you need to whip up a few easy meals.
Here are a some of the meals my family likes to eat in our kitchenette hotel room:
- Yogurt parfaits
Lunch & Dinner:
- Mac and Cheese
- Bagels with Cream Cheese
- Protein Drink
- Cup of Noodles
6. Bring A Reusable Water Bottle
Avoid spending money on water bottles by packing your own reusable water bottle and filling it up with free water where available!
I personally love this Stanley dupe water bottle. It has a lot of really cute colors and great reviews.
7. Eat Out For Lunch Instead of Dinner
If you do decide to go out to eat for a few meals, make sure to eat out for lunch instead of dinner. Most restaurants will offer a cheaper menu during lunch hours, so that you can get the same product for a better price.
8. Stay somewhere with a free breakfast
Make sure to always book a hotel that offers a free breakfast. A free breakfast will give you one less meal you’ll have to pay for during the day. Take advantage of the free breakfast by filling up so you can eat lighter for your other meals.
9. Split A Meal
A great restaurant hack to save extra money is to order one meal and split it between two people! This gives you two meals for the price of one! You could even decide to eat half of your meal and then save the other half for lunch the next day!
- Related: How to Save Money When Eating Out
10. Take Advantage of Happy Hour
Many restaurants offer discount prices during happy hour. It’s easy to do a quick google search to find restaurants nearby that participate in happy hour. Plan your meals around those times and restaurants for the best discounts.
How to Save Money On Sleeping Accommodations
Taking your time and using patience is the best way to book budget friendly sleeping accommodations. There are deals available…but it takes a little bit of searching and research!
11. Shop Around For Sleeping Accommodations
Prices for the same hotel can differ on each website. Make sure to take your time comparing multiple websites to find the best deal.
Next, call the hotel directly to ask if they can offer you an even lower price than what you found on the website. Often if you call the hotel directly they will give you an even better deal than you found online.
Another option for finding good hotel deals is to use a bidding website, such as Priceline. We used Priceline when booking a hotel for our trip to New York City and ended up staying in a beautiful hotel, with a fantastic room and in the perfect location….and it was a great price!
Make sure to book your hotel using the Rakuten cashback app! It will often give you an extra 1-10% cashback on your hotel stay.
- Related: The Best Cash Back Apps
12. Consider Camping
If you are really wanting to save money on overnight stays, you might want to consider camping somewhere. Camping can be a much cheaper than a hotel room, especially if you already have your own camping equipment.
You could camp while sleeping in your car, or pack along a tent and sleeping bag to set up. My kids love to camp and any chance we get to do it into a fun family adventure. Camping is a great way to see new places while enjoying the fresh air.
- Related: Easy Tin Foil Dinner Recipe
13. Stay With Friends Or Family
Another super cheap way to save money on lodging is to ask friends or family if you could stay with them for a night. They will love being able to catch up and host their loved ones!
Make sure to bring a nice thank you card or fresh flowers to show your gratitude!
How To Save Money On Entertainment
Try to have some fun while on your road trip! My family loves getting to enjoy some of the fun things each of our destinations has to offer. Fortunately, there are so many fun and free things you can do while traveling which makes frugality easy! I’ve listed a few ideas below for your road trip on a budget!
14. Visit Free Attractions
Road trips are a great way to see more of the world, and a lot of that can be done for free! Look for free museums, zoos, or road side attractions that you can stop and visit. Your family might also enjoy going on a hike, picnic, or playing in a nearby lake.
Talk to locals, and do some online research to find the best free attractions in the places you’ll be visiting. You just might be surprised at how many you find!
15. Get A National Parks Pass
An annual National Parks Pass is only $80! There are so many fun and interesting things to see and do in our national parks, that $80 investment can bring a lot of fun and memories to your road trip.
There are also a few frugal hacks to purchasing a national parks pass, you can read all about them here.
16. Use Coupons
When planning activities for your road trip, be sure to look into any coupons available. I like to find coupons using Groupon, searching on google, or checking local facebook groups.
17. Free Audiobooks
Listening to audiobooks is a great way to pass time while driving. And guess what?!?! You don’t have to spend any money to listen to audiobooks! There are so many free resources out there for your enjoyment! Be sure to check out my full list here: Free Audiobook Resources.
How To Save Money On Gasoline When Road Tripping
One of the bigger expenses when it comes to a road trip is paying for gas. As fuel prices keep climbing, consumers continue to look for new ways to save money. Here are a few tips that might help.
18. Drive Smart
The first way to save money on fuel is to drive smart! Smart driving will help you get the most out of your car mileage.
Slightly changing the way you drive can make a big difference on your fuel consumption. Slamming on your breaks or speeding up quickly will hurt your gas mileage. Instead, try to get into the habit of accelerating and braking slowly and gradually. It really does make a difference!
You’ll also find yourself saving money by driving at a decreased speed. Driving at a speed of 65 mph is a good rule of thumb to get the best gas mileage.
- Related: More Ways To Save Money On Gas
19. Use Upside Cashback App When Getting Gas
I’ve recently started using the free GetUpside app and loving it! All you have to do is download the app and you will be able to see the gas offers in your area. Choose the offer you want, the offers I’ve received have been anywhere from 15 cents/gallon – 1 cent/gallon cashback. After you select the offer you want to redeem, just go fill up with gas and scan your receipt into the GetUpside app. It’s all really easy! I’ve been using it for about a month and have earned $10 already! Yay!
20. Use the Gas Buddy App
The best way to find which gas station will be the best deal is to download and start using the free Gas Buddy app to help you find the cheapest gas in your area.
It’s really easy to use! Just download the app and enter in your location. The app will then search to find the gas prices near you. Scroll through your options until you find the best deal and use that station to fill up!
The prices will change and vary day to day, so check the app each time you need gas.
Other Ways To Save Money On Your Road Trip
Here are a few other ways you can cut costs on your next family road trip.
21. Avoid Traveling During Holidays
Holiday travel tends to make prices in all areas increase. If you can, try to plan your trips over non-holiday weekends. This will save you money on gas, activities, and lodging.
22. Pack instead of buy
Reduce the amount of items you will have to buy on your road trip by planning ahead and packing as much as you can. Don’t forget to pack medication, band aids, all of the shoes you will need, jackets, and any other gear you think will be useful.
There is nothing worst than getting to your destination to realize you have to go to the store and buy something that you forgot to pack.
23. Avoid Toll Roads
Toll roads are often an unexpected expense. Make sure to plan your driving route to avoid having to pay these tolls.
Use google maps to find the best non-toll road route. This is easily done by clicking on the “avoid tolls” button in the “plan route” section.
24. Invite A Friend
Inviting a friend on your frugal road trip is another great way to reduce costs. Together you can split the cost of gasoline, lodging, and even meals at restaurants! Plus, you’ll make countless memories!
Don’t let frugality stop you from exploring and having fun. Instead, have fun in a frugal way! I hope these ideas help you to have an incredibly fun road trip on a budget!
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