How to save money on your next road trip

Road trips are a great bonding experience for friends and family. They are a great way to get out and have some fun on vacation without high travel costs that leave you broke for months after.

While a road trip is one of the more budget-friendly vacation options, it can still get quite expensive. Here are a few great ways to save money on your next road trip.


Plan your budget before you go. The best way to keep your road trip spending under control is to plan ahead and stick to your budget.

Think about and cost out things like:

  • Accommodation
  • Fuel/gas
  • Food
  • Activities
  • Souvenirs

Always plan a bit extra in your budget for fun stuff you may discover on your trip to help keep you from going over.

family camping in the woods as a vacation
Pack you own food to save money on your road trip vacation

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Food and drinks

One of the biggest costs of a road trip is food and drinks.

Before you set out, load up a cooler with drinks, sandwiches, chopped veggies and fruit to ensure that you have plenty to munch on during your trip with minimal snack grabs at gas stations.

This cooler stays cold for up to 4 days – perfect for the longer road trips and will save you a ton on cold lunches. It also means you don’t need to make a pit stop for food.

Take reusable water bottles like these if you can, and fill them whenever you get an opportunity. You will save a lot doing this.

Gas stations raise their prices for convenience, so you can save a lot of money by getting drinks, chips, and other snacks at the grocery store and making your own sandwiches for the trip.

When you do eat a meal out on your trip, stick to a budget. If you want to eat lunch outside of the car but do not want to spend the money on a restaurant while on the road, you can opt to have a picnic in a field near a rest stop or at a historical site off the highway.

Get yourself a nice family picnic backpack and you can enjoy a proper picnic lunch with proper plates and plastic glasses. I personally detest paper plates so a picnic set like this backpack is an essential for me, every time.

You can also check out these completely irresistible sandwiches to pack up for on the road.

Gift cards

When preparing for your trip, one great way to do this is to buy gift cards to the places you plan on stopping ahead of time online at a discount.

This is a great way to help stay on budget and save money on the overall cost of eating out.

Choose to visit small independents rather than big chain restaurants. These small places often have lower prices and bigger portions, allowing you to take leftovers on the road to munch.

Small hole-in-the-wall places are great for finding better food in major tourist areas where the food is usually less than great because regulars are not what they market for.

Row of 5 fuel pump dispensers
Road trip fuel can be very costly so make savings whenever you can

Save on gas

Plan ahead before your trip to save money on gas. Fuel is expensive, so you want to do everything in your power to help keep the cost manageable.

Before your trip, do basic car maintenance that improves the gas mileage. This includes basics like getting a tune-up with new spark plugs and wires along with checking and filling tires to their optimum level.

While driving, avoid rapid acceleration and hard braking. Both of these can lead to using your gas up faster, raising the overall cost of gas for your road trip.Why not try to drive the hypermiling way?

Idling is a great way to waste gas so avoid traveling through large cities during rush hour instead.

If you find yourself near a large city at rush hour, use this time to take a break and do something fun or take this time to nap so you can drive later when the roads are more clear to finish your trip with fewer issues.

Use rewards cards. Save up points from your favorite grocery store rewards program to save money on gas for your trip.

A great way to take advantage of this is to let your car run low in the days before your trip and do your first fill-up at the gas station with the rewards to get a full tank for much less than normal.

woman sat on car tire with her at side of road to show she has broken down
Breaking down is no fun on your road trip

Roadside assistance

One thing you should consider is adding roadside assistance to your auto insurance. This helps save you money if something goes wrong on your trip.

Paying for someone to unlock your car, changing a tire on the side of the road, or towing if something goes really wrong is one way that you can end up eating up your road trip budget in a way you hadn’t intended.

While you should always hope for the best when embarking on a summer road trip, you should prepare for the worst to help save you money and keep your trip from being ruined by uncontrollable circumstances.

Plan your sleeping arrangements

From camping to scoring a great deal on an Airbnb before you leave on your trip, you can save on your accommodations by planning your stops ahead of time rather than just pulling over when you get tired.

When booking a hotel, find the best deal online, then call the hotel to see if you can get a better deal by booking directly. If not, go back and get the deal you found.

Camping on a road trip is a fun way to see new campsites and have a lot of fun on your trip.

While this is mostly done by people with RVs, a tent is cheap and easy to pack in the trunk to enjoy your stops and save a lot of money.

Start taking back control of your money by grabbing your copy of the Money Saving Starter Guide today.


Come and follow me on Pinterest for more money saving hints and frugal tips!

Pinterest image of soft top car on open road to show how to save money on a road trip.
Pinterest image for money saving tips for a road trip

Last Updated on 7th June 2021 by Emma

About Emma

I'm here to help you become confident in making the best money decisions for you and your family. Frugal living has changed my life, let me help you change yours.

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