Taking road trips on a budget is one of the best ways to explore the United States.  With that being said,  a road trip vacation can be expensive if you don’t plan your trip ahead of time. The good news is that even people who are trying to save money and repair their credit can enjoy an adventurous road trip and make new memories with their loved ones. The key is to plan your road trip with a budget and before you know it, you’ll be ready to hit the open road!

In this article, we share 7 tips for taking road trips on a budget.

Traveling on a budget means you need to actually create one

Once you have an idea of how many days and miles you will be traveling, you are ready to come up with a budget.  The first thing you need to establish is how much money you have to spend. Then you need to put together your line items which include everything from gas, food, any vehicle costs, accommodations and any entertainment.  Depending on your budget, you may need to prioritize within each category.  Think about what is most important and choose from there.  For example, would you prefer nicer dinners or a nicer hotel?

You then need to look at your gas costs.  Once you have that figured out, you will have a better idea of what you have leftover to spend on accommodations, food and entertainment.  Also, don’t forget to keep track of what you are spending each day.  Once you have this down, you will see how easy it is to take road trips on a budget.

Save Your Gas Money If You Want to Take a Road Trip On a Budget

If you don’t drive an electric or hybrid vehicle, then you’ll need to spend money on gas.  That means you will spending a lot of money!  With some careful planning, you can fill up with the least expensive gas. Use the CheapGas or GasBuddy apps to find the cheapest gas on your route. As long as you don’t wait until you’re close to empty, you can strategically fill your pump with the most affordable gas.

Visit the Car Mechanic

road trips on a budget

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Before you take your car on a long road trip, you’ll want to get a tune up to make sure your car is in tip-top shape.  You want to make sure that it can handle all the mileage you’ll be putting on it. During your road trip adventure, you’ll want to have as much fun as possible, and a car issue can seriously dampen the mood and affect the schedule. Furthermore, if you need to get your car repaired during the trip, you’ll likely have to spend lots of money that you could have saved by performing preventative maintenance.

Pack Your Snacks

Let’s be honest, when you hear road trips on a budget, you think you will starve and have no fun.  Not the case. We all know one of the best parts of a road trip is eating all the yummy snacks. However, the money you spend buying snacks from a convenience store will start to add up and compromise your budget. Before your trip, visit a warehouse club store and buy some of your favorite snacks – like chips, candy, popcorn or pretzels – in bulk. Don’t forget to also pack healthy, road-trip-friendly fruits and veggies like apples, grapes, and baby carrots. These foods will keep you fueled and alert during the long stretches of the trip.

Planning Your Meals is Necessary for Road Trips on a Budget

Just because you’re on a budget doesn’t mean you have to eat a “dollar menu” item from a fast food chain for every meal. Download an app like Yelp, which allows you to search local restaurants based on helpful criteria like price range.  Also don’t forget to download LivingSocial and Groupon apps to get deals on local restaurants.

Be adventurous and patronize the mom-and-pop restaurants, which may be more affordable than you think. Not only will you be getting a great deal on a delicious meal, but you’ll also be putting money into the pockets of small business owners.

Find both free and cheap entertainment

road trips on a budget

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Road trips on a budget would not be complete without great entertainment.  Any places that you visit will most likely have entertainment that is free or not too expensive.  Many states have beautiful public parks, landmarks, nature centers, museums etc.  Visit the official tourism websites of the cities and states you are planning to pass through and see what they have to offer.  Also, if the time of year is open, road tripping in the summer months will provide you with more affordable activities like free festivals, concerts etc.  And don’t forget to pack some athletic stuff too.  Think a football, frisbee, badminton set.  You will have fun while also getting in some exercise.

Find affordable lodging

If you are rocking a RV, good on you.  But if you are going to need places to stay, be sure to keep the following in mind.  If you are booking hotels, make sure you are working with a cancellation policy that is flexible.  You want to leave room for any missteps like bad weather or car problems that could delay you.  Also, travel sites like Booking.com and Expedia.com have lots of deals.

These are only a few of many strategies you can use to save money on your road trip. Just Google “how to save money on a road trip” for more helpful ideas.