How to save money on a road trip

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Budgeting and planning

Before hitting the road, it is important to plan and budget. Katie Diederichs, who writes the travel blog Two Wandering Soles with her husband, Ben, said the first steps of a road trip consider your budget and your destination. For a budget-conscious trip, think about the length of your trip and how much you can spend each day while still having money for an emergency fund. (Diederichs usually keeps about a thousand dollars on hand for emergencies.)

It’s also important to check the condition of your vehicle, she says. She recommends having roadside assistance and bringing jumper cables and water in case your car breaks down in a remote area. She also recommends having your vehicle checked and air filled in your tires before you go, which can save money on gas.

Additionally, Diederichs recommends downloading offline Google Maps before setting out in case you pass through an area with no service and need directions.

Save on Gas

Apps like GasBuddy and Google Maps can help you find the cheapest gas in your area, said Kathryn Frazer, a Texas-based content creator who writes Adventures of A+K, a travel blog, with her husband. , Adam. “We saved about 40 cents a gallon at some [gas stations], just by going a few blocks. You may have to go to a really random area, but you can save some money.

Diederichs also uses Upside, which allows users to refund purchases at select chains, including several gas stations. Many gas stations also have rewards programs. Frazer uses Shell’s Fuel Rewards program, which gives him five cents per gallon.

Apps like GasBuddy and Google Maps can help you find the cheapest gas in your area.xreflex – stock.adobe.com

Camp or sleep

There are several accommodation options for all budgets. If your car is big and comfortable enough, you can sleep there. Many businesses, including some Walmarts and even some restaurants, allow people to park for free overnight, Diederichs said. Call the company or check online before you stay to make sure it’s allowed. Rest areas are another option, Frazer said. Diederichs uses the iOverlander and Dyrt apps to find places to stay and camp.

If you’re a frequent traveler, it might be worth signing up for Harvest Hosts or Boondockers Welcome, which Frazers use when they travel. These companies charge an annual fee, but allow businesses and individuals to register their property as a place where campers and RVers can stay for free or in exchange for their company’s support.

Alternatively, Kathryn Frazer said tent camping or sleeping in your car at a campground is “one of the best ways to save money on a road trip,” adding that they’re “like $30 per night instead of $100 for a hotel”. Most campgrounds have showers and restrooms, and state or national park campgrounds tend to be cheaper than private campgrounds, she said.

However, if you prefer a proper roof over your head, Airbnbs, hostels, and hotels are obvious choices. Diederichs suggests looking at housing from a practical perspective. “You might find a really good deal on an Airbnb or a hotel, but it might be located very far from the area you want to explore,” she said. “So it might not be a good choice because you’ll be spending gas money everywhere.”

When to dine out and when to eat in

Diederichs also suggested booking Airbnbs and hotels with kitchens, kitchenettes and continental breakfasts to save money on food. “That way, I can plan the restaurants that I really want to eat at. And then for all the other meals, maybe I can make them myself because I have a kitchen at the Airbnb or a kitchenette there. ‘hotel,” she said. She also likes hotels with continental breakfasts that can serve as breakfast and lunch, so she only eats once a day. She also suggested food trucks as affordable options.

Diederichs brings staple foods with her on her travels, such as quinoa, oils and spices. “When I’m in a destination, I just need to pick up produce, which is sometimes nice to get at a local farmers market, because it’s an experience,” she said, adding that farmers markets are “really great”. way to experience a city – sort of get a sense of the vibe, and also not totally break the bank.

Frazer recommends eating in unique places and having special dining experiences. On a trip to New England, she sought out apple cider donuts, Vermont maple creams, and lobster. “It’s something that we couldn’t really do as much in other parts of the United States — so prioritize those experiences that you can’t really have anywhere else,” she said.

Go out

The Internet greatly facilitates the search for these experiences. “We have about a million tabs open and we’re just looking for things, Google things like ‘cheap and free activities,'” Kathryn said. Google Maps is also a great tool for planning your trip. Diederichs adds color-coded pins to a map whenever she hears about an activity or restaurant that interests her. From there, she can start to see future road trips take shape.

Kathryn and Adam Frazer often check Reddit to find out what the locals are up to. Diederichs also reviews tourism and travel websites. Neilsen and the NH Travel and Tourism Division have organized several road trip itineraries for different areas of the state. Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Maine travel websites also offer road trip guides and road trip ideas.

“Coming out of the pandemic last year, we started organizing [road trip itineraries] for the summer season, just because we knew people kind of wanted to be responsible for their own travel and transportation,” Neilsen said. The routes have proven to be very popular.

Some of the best activities don’t even require you to leave your car. The Frazers took advantage of scenic routes like the Kancamagus Highway in New Hampshire. “The Kanc” is free, and there’s even a free app that offers a guided tour of the highway, Neilsen said.

However, if you’re looking to get some fresh air, the outdoors has a lot to offer. State parks may charge an entry fee of around $4 or $5, according to Neilsen, but other activities are free, such as the New Hampshire Railroad Trails — a series of old railroads converted into trails. for walking, hiking, cycling, etc. state, and there are several hostels and accommodation options along the way. Neilsen suggested cycling between them – which could help reduce the inevitable car sickness and gas prices for car trips.

The Frazers use AllTrails and other blogs to find affordable hikes and activities. For example, they visited Mount Mansfield in Vermont, and visitors could either drive to the top of the mountain, ride a gondola, or hike. Kathryn and Adam chose to hike, which was the cheapest option – and they saved about $20.

Diederichs also suggests looking for events like free music shows in parks, free outdoor movies, and things you might not initially think of when researching activities.

However, remember that the purpose of your trip is to have a good time. So don’t let the stress of budgeting and planning take over. “I wouldn’t be so focused on your budget that you forget about having fun,” Diederichs said.


Dylan Dhindsa can be contacted at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @DylDhi.

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