Tips for a fun and frugal road trip

Driving vacations are popular for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is flexibility. Such excursions are not restricted by flight schedules, and travelers often feel as though they have more control over their trips when traveling by car rather than traveling by air.

Road trips also can save travelers money, especially when traveling in groups of three or more and expenses such as fuel and tolls are shared. In addition to sharing the road with a few friends and family members, road trip enthusiasts can employ several other strategies to enjoy a vacation that’s both frugal and fun.

  • Downsize your vehicle. While prices at the pump have been more driver-friendly in recent months, road trippers who drive large sedans, trucks or SUVs might be able to save money by driving smaller vehicles during their trips. Especially small vehicles may be impractical and uncomfortable depending on the number of people who are making the trip, but mid-size vehicles with ample storage space tend to be more fuel-efficient than large trucks or SUVs. If someone in your traveling party drives such a vehicle and it’s in good shape, take that car instead of a larger alternative.
  • Get a tune-up. Another way to save money on your road trip is to get a vehicle tune-up in the days before your trip is set to begin. Let your mechanic know you are planning a road trip and ask that a full diagnostic test be conducted to make sure everything is running efficiently. An air filter nearing its expiration date may be worth replacing, as a new filter will help to save money on fuel. In addition, replace tires with worn tread, as old or inadequately inflated tires will force the engine to work harder, wasting fuel and costing you and your fellow travelers money along the way.
  • Consider various types of lodging. Road trippers who plan well in advance may be able to find great deals on lodging, but too much planning may cost travelers some of the flexibility and freedom they were hoping to enjoy during their vacations. Weather permitting, campsites can be unique and affordable places to stay. When planning your routes, choose roadways that are close to popular campsites, avoiding campsites that are too remote, as such sites may cost you in time and fuel what you’re saving on lodging. If campsites are unavailable, download hotel website apps on your phone and use these apps to find affordable rooms as you go. Simply showing up to hotels without reservations is unlikely to yield great rates, but apps may offer discounted rates on rooms hotels are simply looking to fill at the last minute.
  • Bring your own food. Fuel, lodging and food tend to be the three biggest expenses on driving vacations. Travelers who bring their own food can save a substantial amount of money and maintain some control over what they eat. That’s a big benefit for men and women who like to eat healthy and prefer to avoid the fast food fare that tends to be the only options available at rest stops.

Road trips make for great vacations, and travelers can take many steps to make such excursions more affordable without sacrificing fun.

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. (You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable.) Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box.