You Can Road Trip Cheaply
I know what you’re thinking: a road trip sounds really fun but how can I do it without it costing thousands of dollars and ending up being so expensive you may as well have just booked a hotel and flight.
Road trips don’t have to be costly, and you can road trip cheaply. I see hundreds of articles on cheap backpacking every week, it seems Pinterest is saturated with generic posts regarding “how to travel on under $50 a day” and such, but I don’t seem to see this for road trips. Of course, on first attempt the cost of a road trip has the potential to escalate, but there are really just two things to do to ensure you have an epic road trip and save those pennies: prepare properly and keep to the plan.
So let’s take a look at Preparation:
- Choosing your route
Choosing the road, the stops and attractions for your trip will arguably have the biggest changeable impact on your final costs. Try to limit the amount of detours from the route, and design one in which you have a relatively smooth circuit.
2. Return your car to the same point you pick it up
Yes, this means you must do a full circle, but it will literally half the cost as rental companies charge a huge amount for one way hires. The last West Coast road trip I did lasted a month and cost me $900 for the rental. The same hire going one way would have been almost $3000. A circular route can be superb, as you’ll see in some of our upcoming road trip itinerary articles, but trust me, I made a 7 week Chicago to Alaska round trip last year and it blew my mind.
3. Pack your food and drinks
It might seem like a small thing, but you will spend half of your daily outgoings on food and drink alone. In your prep stage be sure to buy a thermos or two for the road, a coffee press or filter (great back packing versions can be found at REI), a cooler and some tupperware. With these simple cheap accessories you’ll be able to eat well everyday, save a ton of money on snacks and meals plus you’ll get to your destinations quicker without the constant stops!
4. Download useful apps
Gas Buddy is a must, it saved us a full tank of gas last summer. A good traffic app will help you avoid delays and save gas and extra expenses. Overnight is also an ideal app for last minute accommodation bookings, similar to airbnb it suggests local hosts at short notice for cheap prices as late as the night of. For more apps check out our money saving apps article soon.
5. Pack camping gear
One of the main benefits of having the car is the ability to take absolutely anything with you. I always load the trunk with a tent (or two), sleeping bags and a camping grill. You can’t camp everywhere on a road trip, and in this situation I will jump on Expedia and book a cheap $40 motel. Usually however, I can locate a nice campsite with little trouble. A typical overnight campsite is between $10-$20 a night, serious savings and a lot of fun. Packing camping gear gives you so much flexibility with not only where you stay, but how much you have to pay out.
Once you’ve prepped, you have to be strong and execute the plan
1. Decline the rental insurance
I know. Trust me I know. It feels awful and you get scared when the rental employee is stood with those judging eyes describing the various reasons you need to have their super duper mega insurance. You don’t need it! If you have a Chase credit card, Citi Card or a bunch of other reputable cards, so long as you pay for your rental with your credit card you will be fully covered. Coverage lasts up to 30 days in the case of Chase Freedom, and some cards go even further. Rental car insurance is extortion, it will double your hire price, don’t be scared to say no!
2. Find cruise control
The most fuel consuming aspect of a drive is the constant braking and then accelerating. Cruise control can save you a lot of money if used well. Locate the speed at which your revs are just around 2000 and hit cruise control. Once on, don’t be tempted, just leave it! It may take a little longer to get to your destination, but you’ll never get a ticket, and you’ll save plenty on gas.
Don’t get tempted by bath tubs and mattresses, camping is way more fun and costs very little or even nothing thanks to how many free camping areas there are in the USA. Stick to the plan and every now an then dip into a motel.
4. Food Plan
Have a list of meals you enjoy which don’t require much prep or expense. Drop into supermarkets when you pass towns and load up the cooler. Before you leave prep a few meals to have for the first couple of days, use your tupperware and cooler to store lunch and dinners and pack plenty of snacks. You don’t always need to eat out!
It sounds so simple, but following these little rules will save you so much money. A month long road trip can be a bargain, last summer I paid under $60 a day. Let me know how you get on!