There are many ways to travel the world but nothing beats a good old fashioned road trip. You can move at your own pace, discover new sights and create some unforgettable memories. Depending on the destination, it can also be a lot cheaper than flying. Here’s how to keep the costs low while enjoying your next road trip.
Map out your route
Before hopping in your ride, map out your route to see how long it will take to reach your destination. Driving for hours on end can really test your patience so make sure you’re up for the challenge. We suggest using a site like Roadtrippers to help plan your journey. Not only can they pinpoint the best route, they’ll show you estimated fuel costs, popular attractions and camp sites along the way so you can plan accordingly.
Prep your car
When you’re hundreds of miles from home, the last thing you want is for your car to call it quits on you. Take some time before your trip to perform basic maintenance on your vehicle. Key areas to check include your battery, fluid levels, brakes and tire pressure. Keeping your tires properly inflated can improve your gas mileage by up to 3 percent. Your vehicle’s recommended tire pressure can be found in your owner’s manual or, typically, on the driver’s side door sill. Don’t forget to download a roadside assistance app like Urgent.ly so you can get immediate help whenever you need it.
Eat for cheap
For short trips, you can keep food costs low by packing meals from home. Some travel-friendly food ideas include sandwiches, fruit, trail mix and bottled juices. If you rather pick something up along the way, scope out your options during the planning stages and purchase a discounted gift card. Sites like Giftcard Granny lets users buy restaurant gift cards for less than face value so you save money instantly.
Save at the pump
When it’s time to fuel up, don’t just stop at the first gas station you see. Choose an exit that has multiple stations listed so you can shop around for the lowest price. Preferably, one that charges the same fee whether you pay cash or credit. If you don’t want to do the legwork yourself, use an app like GasBuddy or Gas Guru to find the cheapest prices in the area. Another way to save at the pump is to avoid gas guzzling habits such as rapidly accelerating and decelerating. Aggressive driving reduces your gas mileage between 15-30 percent on highways and 10-40 percent in stop-and-go traffic. Hitting the highway with the windows down also causes your car to burn more gas due to wind resistance. You may love feeling the wind blow in your hair but you’ll save more money by turning on the AC instead.
Skip the hotel
Hotels are nice but can be very expensive when booking at the last-minute. Eliminate the extra expense by sleeping in your car. It won’t be the best sleep you’ve ever gotten but it’s free. Alternatively, you can look for free or inexpensive campsites along the way. Many offer great amenities such as clean restrooms with showers, electric hookups and Wi-Fi. Whatever you do, don’t fall asleep on the side of the road. It’s not safe and you’re more likely to get a ticket. Instead, choose a well-lit parking spot at a rest stop and always lock your doors.
Split the costs
Chances are you’re not taking this trip alone so make sure everyone pays their fair share. If you mapped out your route as suggested, you already have a good idea of how much this trip will cost. Discuss who will pay for what beforehand so there aren’t any surprises when you’re on the road.
Obey the speed limit
As tempting as it is to push the pedal to the medal, stick to driving the speed limit. Getting busted for speeding can cost $150 on average. Plus, your insurance rates may rise as much as 22 percent depending on the severity of the violation. Studies also show that driving more than 50 mph causes your fuel efficiency to decline significantly. According to the Department of Energy, every 5 miles per hour over 50 is like paying an additional 20 cents per gallon at the pump.