How Can I Plan a Cheap Road Trip?

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Answered by: Jennifer, An Expert in the Travel - How to Save on Road Trips Category
Are you trying to plan a cheap road trip? Look no further for tips to save money while on the road!

1. Camp. One major expense while on a road trip is the cost of finding places to sleep. An easy way to cut down on this expense is to camp instead of paying for a hotel every night. If you have an RV, this is easy for you, since you just need to find a place to park it overnight. If you prefer a few more amenities, campsites with hookups (water, electricity) are still cheaper than hotel rooms. If you are driving a car, you can either sleep in your car, or bring along a tent.



There are many resources you can use to find campgrounds. State parks often allow camping, are typically conveniently located, and tend to be cheaper than other types of campgrounds. Many atlases and maps also show state parks, making it easy to figure out where to stay. If you have access to the internet, there are many websites that will provide directories of campsites, such as campendium.com.

If you really want to save money, I recommend looking for free camping as much as possible. This may mean you'll have to "rough it" a bit more, giving up amenities such as showers or RV hookups, but the money you'll save will really add up. The previously mentioned campendium.com has a filter to search for free sites, and freecampsites.net is another excellent resource. However, my favorite way to find sites is an app called wikicamps. As long as you have a smartphone, tablet, or other mobile device, you can download this app and always have it with you on the road. The best thing about this app is that while you have internet access, you can download content such as maps and reviews, allowing you to find a campsite even in the middle of the wilderness with no service or internet. The app also has many filters to find the perfect site, including one for free campsites. Of course, not every site is listed, so it's best to use a combination of resources.



If camping isn't your style, you can still save money by looking for hostels instead of hotels, as these tend to be cheaper. You could also consider using airbnb or a similar service, which allows you to rent out someone's apartment or house. One additional free option would be couchsurfing, which is a community of people that allow you to stay in their home for free, typically in exchange for cooking them a meal or some other gesture of gratitude. Couchsurfing has both a website and an app.

2. Save on gas. Gas will probably be your number one expense while on the road, and is a hard one to avoid or cut down on. Aside from considering your vehicle and attempting to find one that will give you the best mileage, plus making sure that whatever vehicle you have is in good shape, there are a few other things you can do. You could get a gas station credit card: most major gas stations offer cards that give you incentives for using the card to buy gas. Typically, these consist of discounts on fuel, which may only be a few cents per gallon, but will really add up on a road trip. As with any credit card, make sure you read all the fine print and determine if each offer is for you.

Another way to save on fuel is to plan ahead, and map out your route to be as efficient as possible. If you know you want to make five different stops in one day, make sure you know where they are and how to get there so you don't have to backtrack unnecessarily or take roundabout routes.

3. Save on food. Rather than continually eating at restaurants, you will probably find that it is cheaper to buy some groceries and prepare your own meals. Of course this is more difficult than it would be at home, so if you are not in an RV or other vehicle with kitchen facilities, you will have to make some sacrifices. You can get a cooler to keep perishables in, or simply focus on other foods that will keep without being refrigerated. There are also plenty of foods that don't need to be cooked, but if you want to heat up your food you could get a small camp stove or sterno stove. If you will be camping, cooking over a campfire can be fun and delicious.

There are many other ways to plan a cheap road trip, but these are my tips to cut down on the top three expenses - food, shelter, and fuel.

Good luck, and happy trails!

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