8 Road Trip Money Saving Tips

I like a good staycation as much as the next person, but sometimes what I really want is a good, old-fashioned road trip.

Getting out on the open road, heading for adventure, is one of my favorite ways to travel.  I rarely get tired of seeing new places and things.  However, a road trip can get expensive.  With planning, though, you can save some money on your next road trip.

Here are 8 road trip money saving tips to help you get the most for your road trip dollar:

1. Make sure your car is ready

You will get better gas mileage if you make sure that your car is properly maintained and ready to go.  Make sure all service is up to date and tires are properly maintained and inflated.  Remember good driving practices, too.  Don’t speed; not only will your gas mileage be reduced, but you also run the risk of an expensive ticket.

2. Pack light

Consider how much you really need to bring.  If you can do laundry along the way, you might not need as much.  Considering leaving some of the gadgets and gizmos at home.  Packing light will help improve your vehicle’s efficiency on the road.

3. Bring some of your own food

road trip money saving tips

What road trip money saving tips have helped you?

We have a cooler that we fill with condiments, deli meat, some fruit, cheese, salad stuff and other food items.  This way, we don’t have to buy as much food along the way.  We can replenish the ice easily from grocery stores along the way, or from hotels.

4. Plan your restaurant stops

Go a little off the highway to find low-cost eateries — mom and pop places can be good choices for family style eating at a low price.  You can also look online before you go for restaurants that offer kids eat free deals.  Consider splitting entrees if you want to save a little bit, or ordering two or three appetizers to share, instead of entrees.

5. Do a little shopping

Instead of eating out all the time, consider buying food from grocery stores.  Head into town, away from the highway, to find stores with more reasonable prices.  It’ll cost less than eating out all the time.

6. Stay smart

Plan your road trip around smart staying options.  You  might be able to camp one or two nights, saving you money on hotel rooms.  Consider staying with friends and relatives along your route (just be willing to let them stay with you in turn).  If you do stay in a hotel, see if you can find one with a free breakfast.  That’s one meal you won’t have to pay for (and it can help you get back on the road faster too).  If there’s a pool, you’ll have solid entertainment for the kids.

7. Look for discounts

Before you go, check for discounts at local attractions.  You can plan to be in a town on its free museum day (or kids free at the zoo day), or you can look for two-for-one passes at a local fun park or amusement park.  Look for free entertainment options as well.  County fairs often offer free admission and low-cost rides.  Check for concerts in the park, and local parks to stop and play in.

8. Coupons and deal sites

While you’re looking for discounts, check into coupons and deal sites. If you know that you will be stopping in a certain town, sign up for a Groupon or Living Social alert for that locality.

With some planning and creativity, you can road trip for less, stretching your vacation dollars and enjoying a good time.

Do you have any great road trip money saving tips?

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Published or updated May 24, 2013.


  1. Track Your Bucks says:

    Stop and see the sights – don’t just focus on your wallet! If you’re making a lengthy road trip, then take a look at the various discount entrance passes offerred by the U.S. National Parks featured here: http://www.nps.gov/findapark/passes.htm

    • Thanks for the National Parks info. And of course, if you aren’t taking in all the sights then all you are doing is driving from one spot to another.

  2. We look on restaurant.com for certificates at the restaurants in the area we will be travelling when restaurant.com offers the 80% off code. We use Yelp to read reviews about the restaurants to determine which ones to buy certificates for. We have had great luck saving money this week.

    I agree with your tips, especially the packing light. We just got back from an 8 day vacation, but I only packed 4 outfits for each of the kids and we did laundry along the way. One of the hotel rooms we stayed in had a free washer/dryer right in the room. How sweet is that? (I know, it is a weird thing to get excited about.)

    • Great idea about restaurant.com!

      And yes, packing light is crucial with a road trip. Space is limited and you are always taking stuff in and out of the car. We’ll be traveling soon and will definitely be looking for ways to reduce what we carry.

  3. Hi,
    Great list! I was just searching for road trip adventure blogs and came upon yours. I’m driving cross country in August. I hope you’ll check out my blog about the adventure at http://www.levonnegaddy.com/2011/07/were-going-home.html

  4. Good tips! #1 is essential. I really hate car trouble on the road. Before we go on a long trip, I always check oil, tire, and fill up all fluid.

    • I’ve been on car trips as a kid where we had a car that needed service on route. Not fun!! If you have kids you need to make sure the car works. You just reminded me that I need to check our tire pressure, thanks!

  5. superplexa says:

    Try CouchSurfing. Last summer, we made it from Oregon to Ohio for a grand total of $300, mostly for gas and a bit of food. Our hosts were all wonderful. Besides giving us a place to stay, all of them fed us breakfast of some sort, and several fed us dinner, even though this isn’t part of the obligation of a CouchSurfing host.

  6. Super Frugalette says:

    Consider the season and time of day. In some areas of the country you will sit in traffic at rush hour, if you do not want to waste gas and time, consider eating during rush hour. Also call an inquire about what local activities are going on in a certain area. My mother was driving through Bristol, VA and went looking for a hotel room. She had no idea that a major car race was going on at that time. She paid way more than she should have. Now we call the local hotels along the route to see if there is some local event that will book up rooms.

  7. Jenna, Adaptu Community Manager says:

    Great tips! Adaptu did an infographic about summer roadtrips with a Cars 2 theme. Check it out: https://www.adaptu.com/community/visualize_money/blog/2011/06/27/cars-2-vs-road-trips

  8. It there any hot deals , coupons, promotional codes, and bargains here in the Free from Broke..

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