Pack the car, load up your family or roommates, and hit the highway for a road trip adventure. Some of the best parts about a road trip are that they are fun, memorable, and can be inexpensive. However, where you stay, the vehicle you drive, and even which roads you take can make costs add up quickly. Here are a few ways to save on your next drive.
PLAN IN ADVANCE
Planning your route ahead of time instead of as you go can help save you time and money. With planning, you can estimate all of your expenses, including gas, food, hotel accommodations, and tourist stops along the way. You may want to consider researching two different routes to find the most cost-saving one. By knowing your estimated expenses, you’ll be able to better budget for your trip.
GET THE CHEAPEST GAS POSSIBLE
Download the AAA Mobile® app to find the cheapest nearby gas. Select the gas type you need, and view the locations within one, five and 10 miles. Even knocking a few cents per gallon off your fill up can save you several dollars in the long run, especially if you have to top off multiple times during the trip.
BRING YOUR OWN SNACKS
Stopping for snacks and meals can add time to your trip, and also take a chunk out of your budget. If you pack a cooler, you can store drinks and snacks so you always have something when you get hungry. Don’t forget to take some healthy options to keep you energized throughout the trip.
BUILD CHANGING PLANS INTO YOUR BUDGET
Even with planning, things don’t always go as you’d expect. Your vehicle may break down, the cheap hotel may be booked, or you might have to take a detour that includes toll highways. Be sure to include changing plans into your budget to ensure your wallet is covered if something goes wrong.
GET A CAR TUNE-UP, INCLUDING YOUR TIRES
Avoid unexpected costs due to a broken-down vehicle. Before your trip, check:
- Oil level in your engine. If it’s low, or close to the time to change the oil, do it.
- Fluids. This includes coolant, windshield wash, and brake fluid.
- Tire air pressure and tread. Be sure they are not over or under inflated, because either can lead to a blown or flat tire. Low tire pressure can also mean wasted fuel.
Also, ensure the tire tread is 1/16” and if it’s lower, get new tires before you leave.
- Air Filter. Your vehicle will perform better and more efficiently if the engine and cabin filter are fresh.
- Lights and signals. Avoid accidents by checking that all lights and signals work properly. If one is burnt out, replace it.
- Battery. If the battery hasn’t been changed for awhile, it may be time to get a new one. Or, if the sound of your starter is sluggish or slow, it may indicate a dying battery.
While taking your own car means you can pack as much as you can fit, packing too much can result in poor gas mileage. Make a list of everything you’ll need on your trip, including clothes, toiletries, and other necessary essentials for both the road and your destination. Pack all your items in a space-saving, organized way so you can access what you need without having to unpack the whole car. Put the important things, like chargers, your wallet, coolers, and basic toiletries, where you can easily reach.
BOOK BUDGET ACCOMMODATION
If you have to stay somewhere overnight, avoid booking a hotel or accommodations in a big city. This can cost you more, and you’ll likely have to pay more for parking and food.
Consider whether you’re willing to forgo certain aspects that may cost more, such as room service, an on-site restaurant, or fancy accommodations like pools and fitness centers. Look for more budget-friendly chains, or even consider an Airbnb.
PLAN FOR THE WORST, EXPECT THE BEST
If you plan and budget for everything that could go wrong, you’ll have an even better time when everything goes right. Don’t break the bank with unexpected expenses, and instead, enjoy the experience and everything that happens along the way.