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How to Take a Cheap Road Trip

It’s a great time to take a break from the daily grind and go on vacation. Take advantage of the summer beat by hopping in your car and going on an epic road trip with some friends. Here are some ways to embark on a roadside adventure without putting a dent in your savings:

Thoroughly research your destinations first.

Whether you’re doing a tour of national parks or on the quest for the best burger in America, choose the places you want to stop first, then plan your trip around those destinations. You might want to pinpoint your top stops, what you want to do there, and how much time you want to spend at each place. From there you’ll be able to figure out how much to budget for gas, lodging, food, and sightseeing.
You’ll also want to figure out how you’ll pay for things and have access to your money. Will you be relying primarily on your credit card or take out money from ATMs along the way? If you’re a credit union member, check to see where the free CO-OP ATMs and shared branches are located. It’ll save you money in the long run.

Give your car a tune-up.

The last thing you’ll want to happen is for it to break down during your trip. “Make sure your car is in good shape before you start,” recommends Teresa Mears of Living on the Cheap, who lost half a day and $500 plus another day of lodging when one of her tires blew out.
You’ll also want to keep essentials such as an emergency kit, jumper cables, and a spare tire in the trunk in case of a roadside emergency. Don’t forget to check your auto insurance policy to make sure it’s up to date. You can take quick photos of it on your phone as backup. If your insurance carrier offers roadside assistance, check to see if coverage is offered in all states.

Load up on snacks.

While traveling on the road you probably will be passing through a lot of gas stations and fast food establishments. There’s a hefty price for convenience so load up on your favorite snacks at a grocery store before you hit the road. A cooler packed with ice will keep perishable food fresh.

Check out alternative lodging.

Couchsurfing, Airbnb, and VRBO  are not only frugal alternatives to hotels, but you’ll get to meet some dynamic people during your trip. Chances are you’ll also gain insider tips on what cool things to check out in a particular locale.
You can also save some dough by staying with friends and family, suggests Mears. “Not only does it help save money, but it’s a good way to keep up your relationships,” says Mears. Of course, suss things out with your friends and family beforehand to see if it would be a good time to stay with them. If you like, you can also strike a bargain by offering some help with chores or cooking meals.

Use your reward points.

If you’ve racked up a sufficient number of points on a rewards credit card, you can save money by using them strategically for your trip. Depending on the type of credit card you have, you could use your reward points for trip essentials such as lodging, gas, or restaurant gift cards.
You don’t need to dip into your savings to embark on the epic road trip. By employing a few savvy tips, you’ll save money while traveling on the road while not skimping on the fun.