If there’s one thing that for certain, it’s that road trips are expensive. Fortunately, you’ll find many ways to cut costs if you look hard enough. And when you do it right, your budget road trip won’t be any less fun than if you’d spent big bucks.
Road trips are the ultimate adventure. They give you the opportunity to truly enjoy the beauty of our country in ways that nothing else can. Not only do you get to avoid the nightmarish experience that is a visit to the airport (and the expensive flight), but you get to see things you otherwise wouldn’t get to see.
We’re going to talk about using an RV, van or car, and our ten tips will help you save money. And if you plan a budget road trip, you get to see more — or at least not break the bank.
Recommended Read: Top 10 Tips for Grocery Shopping on a Budget
5 Tips for Planning a Budget Road Trip in an RV
Planning a budget road trip doesn’t have to be hard. And you don’t even need to give up anything important. Here are some great tips on making the most of your trip on a smaller budget.
1. RV choice matters
Find yourself tempted to go “all out” and rent a monstrous Class A RV? You want your trip to be special, but the disparity in pricing between Class A and B or C vehicles is, to say the least, staggering. You’ll find this just as true whether you plan to rent or buy.
Sure, you’ll lose out on some of the amenities offered by higher-priced vehicles, but you’ll keep a bunch of money in your bank account.
Bonus Tip: Boondocking, or dry camping, overnight is FREE in many locations, like most WalMarts. Save a ton on campground fees by making your travel days and nights as cheap as possible!
2. Snack time
You’re driving along and the kids are hungry. Or you’re hungry. A trip to a fast-food restaurant or gas station may not seem like an expensive endeavor, but those add up — especially over the course of a two-week road trip.
You can save potentially hundreds of dollars by making your own food. Many if not most RVs have refrigerators. Take advantage of this by stocking up on lunch meats, bread, cheese, and drinks before you embark on your journey.
Not only will you be able to make healthier meals than are offered at a fast food joint, but you’ll have more cash to do other things with.
And if you want to do more than snack in your RV, remember that you probably have a whole kitchen along for the ride. Invest in more substantial foods to cook and skip restaurants altogether!
3. Taking a break
Sure, you can blow a bunch of cash parking overnight at an RV park or a campground, but you have other options. With increasing rates at the aforementioned locations, many seek alternative accommodations. Fortunately, you can cut the cost to a grand total of nothing if you know where to look.
Some businesses will set aside large spaces for RVers. Walmart, for example, regularly welcomes truckers and RVers on their lots. This gives you a good opportunity to restock the fridge too.
Most truck stops will also welcome RVers. Since those, like Walmarts, are seemingly everywhere, you should have no issues locating one.
If you ever find yourself encountering problems locating a place to camp overnight for free, Overnight RV Parking maintains a database of such locations. However, they do charge a (low) annual fee to use the site.
Some casinos are extremely RV-friendly and even offer full hookups. The best part is that gaming isn’t even required. At all of these locations, it’s best to call ahead and ask permission.
Gas is expensive. No matter what, you’ll always find it expensive. However, if you download an app like Gas Buddy, you can easily find the cheapest gas around — no matter where you are. We all know the cheapest station in our neighborhood, but while traveling rely on tech to know where that cheaper gas is.
5. Don’t be afraid to “cheap out”
Planning a trip to the zoo? A museum? A waterpark? No matter what you plan to do, you’ll probably find that the establishment has discount days or times. Plan your stops around those and you could potentially save a lot of money.
Do this right and saving money will be a lot of fun!
5 Tips For Car or Van Roadtripping on a Budget
1. Roof Racks Save Sanity
If you can’t fit everything into your trunk, especially when you have people in the back seat too, it’s worth investing in a roof rack or bag for your car.
It will save your sanity, especially after a few hours on the road, when everyone can stretch out their legs at least a little bit.
2. Plan Frequent Stops
It may feel “logical” to get a full 8 hours of driving in a day, but sitting that long can drive even adults nuts; we’re not even going to address how it affects rowdy kids. Suffice it to say, you want to stop, and stop often.
Use a trip planner app that allows you to fit sights you may want to see into your drive smoothly, so you can stop without losing too much time and get a lot more out of your trip.
City parks, scenic overlooks, and many other sites can be seen for free. Using tools like Mapquest’s trip planner allows you to find those locations so your stops are just costing you time, not money.
3. Use Discount Apps for Hotels/Camping
Whether you are going to tent it, or stay in hotels (we suggest a tent and a campground for the maximum savings), use an app to get the lowest prices possible. Sometimes, apps offer lower prices than you can get in person, even with coupons.
This comes especially in handy when you are traveling with a pet.
4. A Good Cooler and Quality Ice Packs Pay Off
You are going to want to make your meals, and avoid fast food and gas stations while travelling. A good cooler designed to last for a week of camping with quality ice packs is the way to make sure you have what you need, on a budget.
Stop at grocery stores, not convenience stores, and plan on several snacks and meals a day.
5. Gas is Your Biggest Expense (or is it?)
The Gas Buddy app we linked to above is an excellent resource, and can help you cut costs. Simply driving a few extra blocks from the highway can save you big time over the duration of your road trip.
However, knowing exactly where the cheapest gas is means you can also plan your trip accordingly. You’ll save time, and money, assuring that you buy the best gas you can, for the least amount.
Enjoy Your (Budget) Trip!
Now that you know the basics of how to save money for an RV road trip, it’s time to plan one for yourself. Use these tips and tricks to ensure that you not only enjoy yourself but that you save as much money as possible.
After all, the more money you save, the more money you will have to plan your next trip.
Do you have any tips or tricks? Feel free to share them in the comment section below.