Hey there! In late spring, I went on a three-week road trip around the south-eastern United States. My companion and I hit up eight cities over the course of over 1,500 miles. I shared a few city guides already, but today I wanted to let you in on five easy ways to save a few bucks on your next road trip. There are plenty more ways to save, but here are the obvious and easy to get you started:
- Pack a Cooler – Snack attacks hit hard on road trips and most of the time it’s because you’re bored not hungry. Beat hungry street by packing a cooler with some hummus, dips, sandwich supplies, whatever you like to eat on the road. You’ll save money, time and tummy aches by skipping out on all the fast food. Fun fact: We didn’t eat fast food or buy coffee from a chain at all – not even a single time – on our road trip.
- Pay for Gas in Cash – Plenty of gas stations offer a discount (usually five or ten cents per gallon) if you pay for gas in cash. Sometimes these deals are advertised, but other times you have to ask at the counter. It never hurts to ask, you’d be surprised how often there is a discount. Since we’re chattin’ gas, make sure you’re getting the most of your gas mileage. Check the tire pressure frequently and stick to roads where you can drive under 70 mph. It makes a noticeable difference. Also, park in the shade and don’t idle your vehicle for too long.
- Use AirBnB or Camp – Instead of staying in overpriced hotels each night, try camping instead. Staying at local campsites is a great way to get your fill of nature, which can be challenging if all your destinations are cities (like ours were). After a few hours on the interstate highway, your brain will be craving the serene scene that a campsite brings. Camping out during road trips doesn’t require too much gear, really just the tent, sleeping bags, flashlights and camp chairs. Every thing else is a bonus. If you’re not down to sleep on the ground, search for a unique AirBnB instead. I love AirBnB and I have never had a bad experience. They’re especially great if you have young kids or a dog, as you can find accommodations that are right for your family.
- BYOB + C – Whenever possible, always supply your own booze and coffee. Having a big jar of cold brew coffee on hand was the best decision of the road trip. Each morning went so smoothly when we started off with some home brew. Once you have a cup of coffee, the cobwebs clear and the day comes into focus. Often times we bought afternoon coffees (because independent coffee shops are great places to hang out and experience), but without our cold brew to start things off we would have had some rocky mornings. As for the booze, whether it’s a local six pack or a nice bottle of wine, it will always be cheaper at a grocery store than a bar or restaurant. It’s also nice to sit at your campsite or on the deck of your AirBnB and sip slowly with your co-road trippers than to be packed into a crowded bar where you’ll pay more and miss half the conversation.
- Think Like a Local – Just be mindful of your actions and they’ll pay off. Sometimes we were on auto pilot, for instance we paid for parking on a Sunday. So dumb! We didn’t even realize what day it was or we could have parked on the street for free. That would have saved us $18. Brainstorm ideas on how you save at home and translate those tendencies to your life on the road. Instead of grabbing drinks at any old spot, why not look for a local happy hour? Instead of paying for a concert, browse around for a bar that always features live music for a small cover, etc.
That’s it folks. Nothing earth shattering today, but it’s always nice to save a little dough, especially on vacation. There’s nothing worse than coming home feeling tired and broke. Live within your means and make it fun. If you’re stressin’ about money during your trip you certainly won’t enjoy it as much as you could have. So, where are you headed next?