Adventure, camping, hacks, money, organization, road trips, Travel Tips

Save a Bundle on Your Road Trip Adventure

Save Money on Your Next Road Trip

Road-trip season is finally upon us, and if you’re anything like me, you’ve been pouring over maps, researching campgrounds, and creating your perfect travel playlists. Oh, and budgeting. Even frugal road trips that involve lots of peanut butter and jelly and rustic campgrounds can put a dent in the ole bank account. Because my wanderlust is hard core, I’ve learned to stretch every dollar, which also stretches out the time we spend on our back road travels.

It’s true, we’d rather spend weeks in a tent than a few days in a posh resort. Going without the luxury of four solid walls will certainly keep the green in your wallet, but even if camping isn’t your thing, you can still save a bundle on your next road trip with a little careful planning. Here are a few tips that will help you turn that little road trip into an expedition.

Roadtrippin' in Utah

Utah’s scenic roads are beyond amazing

Before You Hit the Road

Roll up your coins – For real. Dig around in the bottom of your purse, scrounge under the couch cushions, and empty out your old coat pockets. Dimes and quarters will go a long way toward late-night coffee breaks, hot campground showers, and afternoon ice-cream cones. Kids especially love the treasure hunt around the house for coins — instant math lesson.

Download a gas app –  Sure the gas gods have been kind to us this year, but that could change at any moment. GasBuddy will help  you find the cheapest gas available, no matter where your explorations take you. This free app is available for whatever smartphone you’re pocketing and will save you loads on every fill-up.

Pack light  – Whatever car, truck, or RV you plan to go gallivanting in will ultimately be filled to the brim with gear, food, and the like, so I should probably reword this to say drive the smallest vehicle you can fit into comfortably. Our family of four did 10,000 miles in one summer in a Pontiac Vibe and we yielded a pretty sweet 30 to 34 MPGs on every gallon. A minivan may have been more comfortable, but we were able to spend two extra weeks on the road with our tiny car.

Sever your ties with the home front – Every penny counts when you’re on a road trip, so be sure and cancel or suspend your newspaper subscription, Netflix account, and your gym membership. More money in your pocket for adventures!

While You’re on the Road

Travel with a picnic basket – It’s amazing what this bit of gear has done for our behind-the-wheel adventures. We keep a basket with plates, bowls, silverware, napkins, and a blanket in the trunk at all times. It means that impromptu explorations only require a trip to the grocery store, and that we can eat like kings and queens on an itty-bitty budget. We’ve had alfresco lunches on rocky bluffs, sunset dinners beside mountain lakes, and rainy-day meals in the back seat. We love to eat out, but our wallets love  when we picnic.

Buy the Annual National Parks Pass  – Okay, if you’re reading this, there’s a good chance that you and I have similar tastes in our adventure travel itineraries. Aside from the crowds, national parks rock! No matter what time of year you embark on a road trip you’re going to want to visit at least one (or four). There are two secrets to loving the national parks. One, escape the throngs of people on back-country trails, and two, get the annual pass. It’s good for the whole carload, and it’s the best $80 you’ll ever spend.

The national parks pass is the best deal around

The national parks pass is the best deal around

Take good care of your car – An ounce of prevention and all that – it applies here. Your car, van, or camper will be your home and your trusty steed for your road trip. Change the oil, replace the brake pads, keep an eye on the tires, and give her a good washing every now and then. Your car will reward you with faithful service, travelin’ tunes, and  a place to take cover when the rains come – and believe me, they will.

Make friends and family part of your adventures – It’s true, your friends and family near and far really do want to spend more time with you. Give them a call, you’ll see! You may also score a bed for the night and a home-cooked meal. Even if you pitch a tent in the backyard, chances are these are the memories you will hold dear when you get home.

So, really, you’ve no excuse. If you don’t mind roughin’ it and you’re willing to be cheap, there’s a beautiful country out there just waiting to be explored. You’ll meet the best people, travel the prettiest roads, and sleep under the most awesome sky you’ve ever seen. Have fun!

If you’re on Pinterest, we’d love a share. Thanks so much!

Great tips for saving money on your next road trip adventure.


  1. Alisha

    Those are really good tips, Tara. Especially the national park idea – I will need to look into that! You should do a post on how to eat cheap on the road (unless you have already done it of course!)

    • Thanks, Alicia. That’s a great idea. I have a bunch of of camping recipes I want to put up. Thanks for reminding me.

  2. yiiui


  3. I’m a huge fan of road trips! Packing the picnic basket is a great idea, and subtlety saves money. I always plan my gas stops in advance for the best money as well.

  4. Such good ideas… and i have been really thinking lately to fill up an empty juice jar with coins for my next “road trip”! Even if I just saved a few months… I think I could collect some $$$$!
    Clare Speer recently posted…Dying LaughingMy Profile

  5. Great tips! I didn’t know there was such a thing as a gas app. How cool! Definitely, going to check that one out.
    Mama Munchkin (@globalmunchkins) recently posted…How Kids Make You Grateful- Gratefulness ChallengeMy Profile

  6. This just shows that traveling doesn’t have to be so overwhelming if you are organized. Really enjoyed reading your post.

  7. Great tips! I’ll be keeping them in mind for my next road trip!
    Cassandra recently posted…secondhand shopping tipsMy Profile

Leave a Reply

CommentLuv badge

Theme by Anders Norén