It’s no secret that road trips can be pretty expensive when you add up all the gas, accommodation, food, etc. Despite the price, I personally love going on road trips. I love the small towns you drive through. Some of my favorite restaurants in the world have been in the middle of no where. It is always a fun and exciting adventure. There are beautiful places all over this world that have not been publicized on social media that you’d only be able to see on a road trip. In order to spend less so that I can travel longer, I’ve done some research on how I can make road trips as cheap as possible. And this is what I found:
Accommodation is one of the most expensive parts about a road trip so I searched and searched for ways to cut down these costs. One of the best ways to cut down costs is camping. But free camping.
- Freecampsites.net is such a beautiful website for us budget travelers. It offers so many places all across the globe where you can camp for free. I’ve used this many times and I can honestly say that some of these free campsites are some of the best campsites I’ve ever stayed at. BLM sites are often free.
- campendium.com is another awesome website to find free campsites!
- campinmygarden.com is a pretty cool site where people will allow you to camp out in their backyards for a few bucks.
If camping is not an option. The next best way to go is an Airbnb or hostels!
Food is another very expensive part of road trips. Even Mcdonald’s big macs add up to a big sum at the end of the trip. Not to mention it is disgustingly unhealthy. So, this is where planning comes in.
Bring a small camp stove. Bring a cooler. Buying a couple bags of ice is going to be worth it in the end. Stock up on healthy and easy to cook food. You can even prepare some meals before you go and stick them in the cooler! This cuts down the cost of food by an incredible amount. And it’s healthier which makes for a more energized you and an all around better trip. Even when I would stay in hotels, I would often sit outside and cook myself a cheap meal instead of going out. I know it’s hard but try to avoid the tempting energy drinks and snacks at the gas stations! Here are some ideas for food to pack:
- spaghetti and pasta sauce
- Peanut butter and celery sticks
- hummus and pretzels/carrots
- apples, grapes, bananas, berries, etc
- canned corn, green beans, etc
- refried beans and tortillas
- canned soups
- peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
- bagels and cream cheese/peanut butter/avocados
- rice/pasta and vegetables
- almonds, cashews, peanuts, etc
- granola bars
- slices of cheese and crackers
Gas. While there’s no way to avoid buying gas, try to stay away from gas stations near the highway as they tend to be more expensive. Drive slow. Carry some cash because some gas stations are cheaper if you pay with cash. GasBuddy and Gas Guru are awesome apps that will tell you where the cheapest gas is near you.
The unexpected is always going to happen. Flat tires, break downs, running out of gas. You name it. There’s a chance it will happen. I can not tell you how much I have saved by having AAA. When I ran out of gas on the free way in middle-of-no-where Nevada, AAA was there. When my car broke down in phone service-less Canyon Lands and needed to be towed an hour to the nearest shop, AAA was there. When I got in an accident in Portland, AAA was there to tow me away. All my unfortunate flat tires, you guessed it, AAA was there for me. It blows me away that all this only costs me a total of $30 a year! If I did not have AAA, all of this would have cost me hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of dollars. So I hope my point got across, get AAA. And I would also recommend setting aside at least $100 for the unexpected situations.
- If you’re planning on visiting multiple national parks: INVEST IN A PASS! A national park pass is $80 and will get you into any national park. It is good for a whole year and totally worth it if you plan on visiting at least 3 national parks in a year. The entrance fee for a car is $30!
- Take a reusable water bottle! Or a few. Fill them up whenever possible.
- Aim for the free activities like going hiking, to the beach, enjoying a bonfire, etc. Nothing beats the freedom that nature provides. You don’t need to spend a lot of money to have fun. I strongly encourage you to do some research before you go anywhere. All it takes is a few minutes to search “free and cheap things to do in ____” There are endless opportunities out there. If your road trip is taking you into the city, research some city passes.
- While there is Airbnb for house rentals, there is turo.com for car rentals from real people instead of big companies!
- If you choose to rent a car from a big company, keep in mind that some of them charge huge drop off fees if you plan on dropping off the car in a different location than where you picked it up from. Look into this beforehand!
- Make sure your maps on your phone is avoiding all toll roads.
- Check out the WiFi Map – Free Passwords app. This provides you with areas where you can get wifi AND their passwords.
- Groupon will be your best friend. So many awesome deals if you’re looking for some fun, cheap things to do.
- Enjoy the open road!