Road Trip Money-Saving Tips

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You haven’t truly experienced college if you never went on a truly awesome road trip with your friends. I know some people may not agree with that assessment, but think about it: going on a road trip during college is one of the few times you’ll be able to experience other places without the burden of adulting and stuff. Sure, projects and grades can suck, but it still beats having to worry about like, mortgages and stuff. So for now, get out on the road and experience life in a way you’ll never be able to ever again!

Today, I’m going to going you a bunch of tips on how to save (and properly spend) your hard-earned money when you hit the road. Just because a road trip gives you a sense of freedom, that doesn’t mean you need to forget about your finances. On the contrary, the money-saving tips I’m about to give you will help you relax and take your mind off money. And it’ll let you focus on the only thing that matters: having an absolute blast!

I’ve grouped each money-saving method into different categories based on where you will be on your trip. So without further ado here’s a list of my top tips on how to save money on a road trip – consider this your road trip to savings!

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Planning and Fuel

A trip starts before even before you leave the door. The moment you and your friends begin spitballing travel ideas is just as critical as the time you guys actually head out on the road. In fact, I’d say it’s even more important. The actual travel is just execution. The planning and preparation are what make everything go smoothly.

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Book way in advance

One of the best ways to save money on a road trip is to book everything way in advance. That includes rooms, guided tours, concerts, or whatever it is you guys plan to do on your journey. Reservation prices usually go up the closer you are to your check-in date, so book way, way, in advance. Like at least 6 months, if possible. The great thing about booking in advance is that it forces everyone to commit. Sure, you could probably get a refund on your deposit, but it’s harder to flake out when you’ve invested your money on the trip.

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Use GasBuddy.com

If you’re going on a road trip by car (don’t laugh – I know a few people who refer to taking the airlines as a “road trip”) saving on gas is of utmost importance. We’ve used an app called GasBuddy. What it does is basically give you a list of gas stations in your vicinity, and shows you which one has the lowest price.

Anyone who’s desperately wandered around Nowheresville with a tank dangerously low on gas will know how valuable this app is. Since we don’t always know where all the gas stations are located – especially if we’re venturing out in unfamiliar territory – GasBuddy helped us ensure that we’re never out or low on gas.

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Use highways when possible

Okay, I’m not a mechanical engineer. So I don’t know why cars have better fuel mileage out in the open road, but I’ve always known that to be a fact. With apps like Waze and GasBuddy, it’s easier than ever to plan your route while avoiding side streets and congested roads. Taking the open road isn’t only more fun, it’s how to save money on gas on a road trip.

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What to Eat

You need fuel just as much as your car does. Here are a few tips on how to keep yourself and your companions energized for the trip ahead.

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Bring lots of road-friendly food

Frequent stops to load up on food adds to your travel time, as well as your gas consumption. When possible, eat your snacks on the road. Food like energy bars, trail mixes, and simple sandwiches are perfect for this. You can also bring chips, but try to avoid anything cheese flavored, since in my experience the cheese powder tends to get everywhere.

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Don’t forget to hydrate!

Bring lots of water. To save money, avoid bottled water and fill up some jugs or tumblers instead. But if you’re traveling through a hot area, it might be a good idea to bring some sports drinks to keep everyone hydrated. Don’t scrimp on the amount of fluids you bring; a friend of mine once got severely dehydrated while we were out driving through the desert. We had to spend the night with him in the ER while he recuperated.

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Don’t waste food

Don’t throw away half-eaten sandwiches or chips you don’t like the flavor of. Wasted food is, er, wasted food. But more than that, it’s also lost money. And since we’re trying to save you some money, don’t waste any of your food. Think of food as savings. You won’t just throw away your savings, right?

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Be adventurous!

If you really need to eat out, try to avoid your usual stops like McDonald’s or Burger King. Use sites like TripAdvisor or Yelp to find new places to eat while out on the road. Usually, these independent restaurants are cheaper than chain restos and offer a more authentic experience of the location you’re passing through.

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How to stay sane on the road

You might think you enjoy the company of your friends, but all that might change when you’re crammed into a single car and spend hours driving on endless roads. The lack of personal space and entertainment can cause some severe stress between you and your companions. Here are a few techniques to preserve everyone’s sanity.

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Chip-in for a Spotify premium account

Since Netflix and driving aren’t compatible, make sure someone in the group has a premium Spotify account. Nothing crushes the morale of a group like having to listen to some crappy radio program. Good music is like a road trip lubricant; it just makes things easier. And speaking of music…

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Take shifts being the DJ

In my travel group, the person sitting shotgun usually has authority over the music. But if you’re traveling for long periods of time, it would suck to have one person hog that privilege. So we usually give everyone about an hour of DJ duties. Everyone is happy.

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Know when to leave each other alone

With the cramped spaces, sometimes the best thing you can do is to leave each other alone. You’re not required to have constant life-changing conversations. Sometimes spacing out and enjoying the trip in comfortable silence is also okay.

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Where to Stay

Now that you’ve arrived at your destination, it’s time to find a place to stay. But if you’ve followed my first piece of advice, you would have already booked your accommodations. But here are some additional ideas on where to stay.

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Stay at an Airbnb

An Airbnb is a more pleasant experience, compared to booking a bunch of motel rooms. Plus AirBNBs generally have better views and locations. Just don’t go all rock star and trash the place. Real people own these houses, and while you’re there to have fun, it’s best to respect the space.


A relative’s house

I know this might not be the best option for most fun-loving college peeps – I mean, we didn’t leave college only to have to spend our holiday in some relative’s house, right? But if you were planning on spending most of the day out of the house and doing side-trips, this could be a cost-saving travel option.


Rough it out!

If you’re going to a place the allows camping, give it a try. Camping is one of the most enjoyable travel experiences I’ve had – and it’s definitely cheaper than renting!
 
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