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How to Save Money on a Road Trip

How to Save Money on a Road Trip

By Matt Diehl • July 06, 2017

Road trips can be a fun way to explore the country and create lifelong memories. They can also be a budget-friendly getaway if you plan properly.

From family vacations to cross-country adventures with friends, here are some tips on how to save money on a road trip:

Prep your vehicle

As your primary mode of transportation, your vehicle should be in prime working condition before you hit the road. By completing routine or preventative maintenance in advance, you could possibly avoid mechanical problems during your trip.

You’re likely to spend a lot of time inside your vehicle, so cleaning the interior might also improve your overall experience. Here are some suggestions to prep a vehicle for a road trip:

Pack wisely

The amount you pack can depend on several factors including vehicle type, number of passengers and duration of the trip. However, if you put thought into exactly what you need, you could save more than space in your trunk.

For example, if you’re heading to a beach destination, pack your own towels and sunscreen because they may cost more onsite. If you intend to buy meals along the way, you could avoid paying for drinks and chips by packing them ahead of time. By anticipating these supplemental costs and planning ahead, the savings could add up over time.

Here are some common items to consider packing for your trip:

  • Toiletries
  • Phone chargers
  • Batteries
  • Snacks
  • Drinks
  • Condiments

One item that should be packed for any road trip is an emergency kit. Although you can buy premade kits, it could be less expensive to create your own. For more information, check out these tips on how to pack an emergency kit.

Map your route

Although taking off with no plan might sound exciting, it may not be the best option to save money. In addition to financial benefits, a more strategic approach could help you make the most out of each day.

First, identify the best route to your destination. You could use a traditional map or an internet source such as Google Maps. By knowing which roads and highways you need to take, you can identify rest stops, restaurants and any other landmark that could be useful along the way.

If you plan to take a more scenic route, there are websites and applications that can perform this research for you. All you need to do is type in your starting point and destination or choose what states you’ll be driving through.

Two helpful and free online resources include:

Search for low fuel prices

Depending on where you travel, gas could be one of the highest expenses of your trip. If you’re filling up your tank every time you stop, saving 20 cents per gallon could result in substantial savings.

One popular way to locate low fuel prices is GasBuddy. This platform consists of drivers from across the country submitting local gas prices in their cities and towns. GasBuddy then tallies the data and provides updates throughout the day with the lowest fuel prices in your area. In fact, they also offer a Trip Cost Calculator which could help you get an idea of your fuel costs for the entire trip.

Find low-cost lodging

Although camping is certainly an option, your trip may not take you to an area suitable for sleeping outdoors. To find the best lodging for the lowest price, it could pay to research your options.

One option could be to stay with relatives or friends along your route. You could also compare hotel prices for the best rates and accommodations. However, if you’re looking for an absolutely free overnight stay, you may be in luck.

Couchsurfing and BeWelcome are hospitality exchange networks that connect hosts and travelers from around the world. After connecting through the membership portal, users can stay in each other’s homes free of charge. In addition to saving money, you could also make some new friends in the process.

Have a nice trip

As with most vacations, saving money on a road trip is possible with a little planning and preparation. Once your checklist is complete, there should be nothing but open road ahead.

The information in this article is provided for general education and informational purposes only, without any express or implied warranty of any kind, including warranties of accuracy, completeness or fitness for any particular purpose. It is not intended to be and does not constitute financial, legal or any other advice specific to you the user or anyone else. The companies and individuals (other than OneMain Financial’s sponsored partners) referred to in this message are not sponsors of, do not endorse, and are not otherwise affiliated with OneMain Financial.