Lori Lori is a work-at-home mom of three living in Noblesville, Indiana.

Contemplating hitting the open road this year? You aren’t alone. A recent travel survey found that road trips are on the rise in the United States, as more families are choosing to drive their own car over flying and renting a car for their vacations. Road trips can help eliminate the unpredictability of flights and can also be much easier on your wallet. 

Keep in mind the costs can add up quickly when driving; you’ll need gas every few hundred miles, you will need to eat while you’re on the road, and have to have a place to sleep at night along the way. 

There are countless reasons to take the kids on a road trip this summer! If you’re ready to take that trip but don’t want to break the bank, take a look at these money-saving tips to help you navigate America’s highways this year.

Determine goals for the trip

There are different types of goals for each trip. Are you trying to get there in the fastest time possible? Are you wanting to experience local things in each major city? Are you eating your way through the country? These are all factors that play into the budget for your trip. Determining this ahead of time allows you to cut back on expenses somewhere else. If you love fancy meals, consider camping along the way. If you prefer fancy hotels, opt for fast food meals.

Bring your own food and snacks

Pull out the cooler and pack some fruit, yogurt, cheese sticks, and water bottles. Bring some bread and peanut butter. Think about your family’s must-haves and make sure to pack them.

Every time we go on a trip, I pack a big box of our snack staples such as Goldfish crackers, granola bars, bananas and microwave popcorn. This helps us to save money throughout the week too. 

Utilize apps

Apps can be your best friend. Apps like GetUpside tell you which gas stations are participating and give you money back for each gallon of gas so you can save money at the pump! You need to set up a Pay Pal address to get the cashback, but it’s worth your time.

We also use a lot of food apps to save us cash. While we love a good meal, when we’re road tripping, we usually want to eat a quick, inexpensive meal so we can get back on the road. The McDonald’s app nearly always has a $1 large fry! We also have the Sonic app and Chick-fil-a app. They’re easy to use and offer us rewards nearly every other visit.

Road trip
Ways to save money when taking a road trip. Photo via creativetravelguide.com.

Compare lodging rates

Begin by checking multiple booking sites. Look at booking.com, kayak, hotels.com, and Expedia. Go ahead and check the actual hotel site too! I joined the rewards club for both Marriott and Best Western. You can often save money or earn points towards future trips by using the rewards number – and it’s free to sign up and only takes a few minutes!

If you prefer a rental, you can check out VRBO and Airbnb.  Vacation rentals can often provide you a unique accommodation experience.

Another way to save money is to consider traveling Monday through Friday. Weekend rates are always higher than weekday rates. We always look for hotels that offer free breakfast too! The savings on breakfast and coffee really add up over the course of a week-long get away! 

Consider tent camping

Last, but not least… if where you sleep isn’t a big deal to you, consider tent camping. When you camp in national and state parks, you will spend a fraction of the cost compared to hotels and vacation rentals nearby. This is one way you can save BIG on a road trip!

If you are not an experienced tent camper, there are so many resources online that tell you what to pack when tent camping. Plus, you’ll also likely be much closer to the main attractions and hikes! The list of great campgrounds in the United States is a long one, plus camping will make it a trip the kids will never forget! I will always remember camping in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan when I was a kid and my kid’s favorite trip was when we stayed at a Yogi Bear Campground (in a cabin though)! They loved everyone riding around on bikes and seeing kids everywhere!

Tent camping
Tent camping. Photo via nps.gov.

Hope these suggestions help make your next road trip more enjoyable and less expensive!

Category: Mumbling Mommy