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9 Ways to Save Money on Summer Road Trips

By Lindsay VanSomeren
May 23, 2018

After spending the whole winter cooped up in your home, nothing says summer quite like the two words “road trip!” After all, now you’re ready to enjoy the open road and travel to new places.

But, before you hop in the car and shift into drive mode, we’ve got 9 money saving tips to help you make the most out of your summer road trips. Just think: the more money you save, the more adventures in store for you! Are you ready to go? Read on to learn more.

Get Your Car Checked Out By a Mechanic

If your car has been stuck in the cold weather, there’s a good chance it could use a tune-up before it sets out on a long drive. If there’s anything we’ve learned, it’s that you don’t want to get stuck in the middle of nowhere dealing with a broken down car.

So, schedule a quick once-over with your mechanic. This will be well worth it and could end up saving you big bucks. Why? Hiring a tow truck and fixing a broken down car often costs more than minor repairs and maintenance ahead of time.

Use a Cheap Gas-Finding App

Have you ever noticed how gas prices across nearby cities—or even across town—can be radically different? Since you’ll be burning through a lot of gas on your road trip, it’s a wise idea to save money by finding the cheapest gas stations.

Apps like GasBuddy or Gas Guru can help point you to the nearest cheap gas station. Or, if you’re using the Waze app to navigate, you can ask it to direct you to the nearest cheap gas station.

Pack Everything You’ll Need

It may not be Christmas yet, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make a list and check it twice. Before you head out, brainstorm what you’ll need for your trip, even down to your skivvies and chapstick. It can be expensive if you forget your swimsuit and need to buy a new one in an overpriced tourist shop (I’ve got firsthand experience with this!)

BYO Meals, Snacks, and Drinks

Here’s another pro tip: bring food with you. Pack a cooler and some ice, and keep cold drinks and food in it.

Also, you don’t need to deprive yourself and pack only PB&J sandwiches (unless that’s your style). Instead, find fun new (and cheap) recipes on Pinterest that you can make ahead of time and add some excitement to your taste buds as well.

Plan Your Trip Ahead of Time

Sure, spontaneous road trips in unplanned directions have their place. But if you have a destination, it’s better to have a plan.

Which route is fastest? Which one leads you through the most scenic areas? What cool sights are there to see along the way? You can find the answers to all these question and more from sites like Roadtrippers, Furkot, and Rand McNally’s TripMaker.

While we’re on the subject of planning, keep in mind that not everything always works out as planned. In fact, you may hit some areas with zero cell reception, or maybe your phone’s batteries will wear out on you. Just in case, it’s always a good idea to have a paper copy of a map as a backup. You can find atlases of all the major roads in the U.S for under $20 at a bookstore or on Amazon.

Find Cheap Accommodations

Sure, you can stay in an overpriced hotel while out on the open road. But why would you, especially when there are so many options that are cheaper and more fun?

For example, summer is a prime time to go camping. There are thousands of campgrounds across the nation, run by companies, the Federal government, and state governments.You can also stay in a sweet Airbnb, go couchsurfing, or even just sleep in your car overnight (make sure to park someplace safe with security cameras!)

Skip the Cartop Cargo Box

You may be tempted to get one of those cargo boxes that attach to the roof of your car for your summer road trip, especially if you’ve got a small car. But, maybe you should think again and leave the bulky box at home.

The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that these cartop cargo boxes can reduce fuel economy by up to 17% at highway speeds and 25% at interstate speeds. That’s definitely not a cheap way to travel.

Use the Dash App

The Dash app was built for road trips. This handy app requires an inexpensive small gadget that you plug into your car. Once that’s plugged in, you’ll get a wealth of information about your chariot.

For example, you’ll get real-time feedback about your fuel efficiency. Dash can also read what’s wrong with your car if your “check engine” light comes on, tell you how much it’ll cost to fix, and show you where the nearest mechanic is. Finally, if you break down or get in an accident, you can get help from roadside assistance directly through the app.

Save Up For Your Trip Ahead of Time

Finally, no one likes a post-roadtrip financial hangover. Setting aside a small amount each month in a travel fund (even throughout winter) can help ensure that you can afford your upcoming road trip. So, remember to set and check your budget and make a commitment to save money each month.

Road trips don’t have to be expensive. With these tips in mind, you’ll be ready to hit the road this summer on a budget!


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