money·3 min read

How to Save Money on a Road Trip

A couple packing their car for a road trip
Design: theSkimm | Photo: Getty Images
May 25, 2022

Just because you’re steering clear of flights (hi, crazy airfares), that doesn’t mean your PTO days have to go to waste. Road trips tend to be easier on the travel budget than plane rides. No wonder over 683 million Americans plan to hit the road for their next trip, according to AAA.

Brb, packing the car.

Put the pedal to the budgeting metal first. (Sorry.) Planning your food, fuel, and sleep stops ahead of time can help you save even more. Some ideas:

  • Get rewarded. Gas prices are at historic highs. Minimize the damage to your budget by downloading free apps like GasBuddy to find the cheapest stations near you and packing a credit card that earns points or cash back when you fill up. PS: keeping your tires pumped up and driving at a consistent speed can also help you trim fuel costs.

  • Stock the glovebox. Your GPS can help you avoid tolls, but that could tack on more miles. Since most states charge more for mailed tolls, , you might want to invest in a transponder (EZ-Pass, FasTrak, SunPass, etc.) for the area you’re driving through.

  • Book ahead. These days, calling directly might be your best option. Pro tip: score hotel discounts with an AARP card. It’s normally $16 a year, and not just for retirees. And search Groupon and Tripadvisor for deals at your destinations. (Psst...if you’re hitting up more than three national parks, an annual pass is probably the way to go.) Bonus points for spots with free parking.

Anything else I should take care of before I go?

A few last minute moves can help you avoid on-the-go expenses.

  • Visit your mechanic. Getting your car serviced can prevent expensive breakdowns and repairs along the way. Kinda obvious...but key to staying on the right track.

  • BYOS. As in, bring your own snacks. Limiting restaurant meals can cut down on costs, and minimizing those gas station snack stops will help you avoid inflated convenience store prices. So pack a cooler and fill the trunk with family-size bags of your fave munchies from the grocery store

  • Save the data. If you aren’t on an unlimited plan, downloading offline Google Maps and picking a few playlists and audiobooks now means no extra charges on your phone bill later. This also means you won’t be SOL (or tunes) when you drive through patchy service areas.

theSkimm

With airline fares on the rise, a road trip never looked so good. And with the right pre-departure planning, your savings can stay the course, too.

Updated May 25 to include the latest summer travel info.

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Skimm'd by: Ivana Pino, Liz Knueven, Casey Bond, Stacy Rapacon, and Elyse Steinhaus
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