How To Plan a Road Trip That’s Both Fun and Affordable

When you plan a road trip on a budget, it doesn’t have to be stressful. With the right tips and tricks, you can schedule an enjoyable, affordable vacation. From discovering less well-known destinations to taking advantage of discounts and special offers, there are many ways to plan your next trip without breaking the bank.

Route 66 gate in Tulsa.
Route 66. Photo credit: Depositphotos.

Putting together the perfect road trip, like taking a scenic ride from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon, doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive. Start by researching potential destinations while keeping your budget in mind.

Many affordable locations can provide a great experience without breaking your budget. Research the costs of lodging, attractions, or other activities to find the best deal.

Consider packing meals and snacks from home to save money on food costs while traveling. Also, map out your route before setting off and plan for plenty of rest stops during your journey.

By doing some research and planning, you can create an enjoyable and inexpensive road trip for yourself and your family or friends.

Researching the Cost of Your Destination

People in a convertible with their hands in the air.
Photo credit: Depositphotos.

Researching the destination and the path to get there is critical when planning a road trip. The first step should be to determine where you want to go. There are plenty of cheap vacation spots for Americans to go.

Next, determine the best route to take. Consider the weather, time of year, and attractions available in each location.

Look online for helpful reviews on activities, restaurants, and places of interest within your budget. Research lodging options and compare prices to get the best deal for your money.

Fuel cost is also an essential factor when planning a road trip on a budget. Be sure to check gas prices along your route in advance, so you’ll know how much it will cost to fuel up along the way.

Additionally, some states have toll roads that may add up if you drive long distances. Research these fees before hitting the road so there aren’t any surprises later.

Consider renting a car instead of using your own if it will save more money over time:

  • Better fuel efficiency. Rental car companies often offer vehicles with better fuel efficiency than your car. By renting a more fuel-efficient car, you can save money on gas.
  • Less wear and tear on your car. You may need to get your car serviced before or after the trip. By renting a car, you can avoid these maintenance costs and save money on oil changes, tire rotations, and other routine maintenance tasks.
  • No depreciation. When you drive your car on a road trip, excess mileage can depreciate its value. By renting a car, you avoid this depreciation and can save money in the long run.
Photo credit: Depositphotos.

If you want to rent a car, research rental fees and insurance costs associated with rentals before making any decisions.

Low-Cost Accommodations

We paired a recent road trip to Leavenworth downtown with a hotel stay for a quick weekend trip. Hotels can be a convenient and luxurious option for road trip accommodation. Staying in a hotel allows travelers to recharge comfortably with amenities like air conditioning, TVs, and comfortable beds.

Hotels usually have additional amenities such as swimming pools, spas, and fitness centers that allow relaxing after long days of exploring the area. Additionally, some hotels offer free breakfast buffets or other discounts on meals at their restaurants. However, staying in hotels can be expensive compared to camping. They can also be more challenging to find when traveling through remote areas.

Camping is an affordable alternative for road trip accommodation that allows travelers to explore nature while sleeping under the stars. Tents are lightweight and easy to transport, making them ideal for travelers who want flexibility with where they sleep each night.

A campground also offers excellent opportunities for cooking outdoors over a campfire, which can save money on eating out during travels. Furthermore, camping fees are often cheaper than hotel rates, but this varies from place to place, so it’s essential to research before leaving. However, camping areas may not be available in places that aren’t near specific destinations or attractions, making camping less practical than hotels in certain situations.

A camping tent in the wilderness in front of a river.
Photo credit:

Keeping Transportation Within Budget

Vehicle rentals are an ideal way to save money on a road trip. Renting a car can be inexpensive, especially if you book in advance or use online search engines to find the best deals.

For large groups, renting a car is usually cheaper than taking public transportation or driving your car for long distances. Additionally, car rentals come with amenities such as GPS and roadside assistance that could help make the journey smoother and more enjoyable.

When planning a road trip, one should also consider fuel costs. It’s wise to prepare by looking up gas prices along the route you’ll take so you can budget accordingly. If possible, try to fill up your tank when gas is cheaper (e.g., away from major cities).

Pick a rental car that is energy efficient and runs on regular rather than premium fuel whenever possible. This will help cut down on overall costs drastically in the long run.

You also want to consider the weight of your stuff. Excess weight in a vehicle can use more gas or fuel. The effect of excess weight on fuel consumption may not be noticeable for small loads, but it can become significant for heavier loads or when traveling long distances. Only bring traveling essentials that you really need. There are also some great packing hacks for travel to help you fit in everything you need.

Inexpensive Meal Options

When planning a road trip, budgeting for food and drinks is essential. To save money and still eat well, consider packing snacks like trail mix, granola bars, and sandwiches from home.

Dining out can get expensive quickly, so finding ways to limit the number of restaurants you visit is vital. Bring an insulated cooler with cold drinks and meals easily reheated or eaten cold. Or, invest in a mini electric car cooler to keep things cold even longer.

Night at the restaurant
Restaurant. Photo credit: DepositPhotos.

Also, try to take advantage of local stores or fast food restaurants that offer discounts or promotions whenever possible. Check if any discount chains in the area offer reduced prices on snacks or meals. Finally, buy food from grocery stores where you can buy items in bulk for a lower price than at restaurants.

Free Entertainment on The Road

In-car entertainment doesn’t have to be expensive. Many people are surprised to learn that various free options are available. Here’s how you can keep the whole family entertained without going over your budget:

Music is always a great choice on long drives. Create an entertaining playlist beforehand — or make one together as a family. If everyone can access their device, let everyone take turns playing DJ for the ride. Internet radio apps like Spotify and Pandora can provide endless entertainment with their free versions.

Podcasts are another great way to pass the time in the car. They come in all different genres, and there’s something for everyone — from hilarious comedy shows to gripping true crime dramas.

Download a few podcast episodes onto your phone before you leave so you don’t have to rely on spotty service during your drive. Audiobooks are also perfect for road trips; many libraries now offer digital downloads, so they won’t cost you anything extra. Another fun thing to do is play fun road trip games. These will keep everyone entertained during long boring stretches of highway. There are plenty of other road trip hacks you can use to make the time fly by if you aren’t into games.

Benefits and Resources for Planning Ahead

Planning has several benefits when it comes to organizing a road trip. First, you can often find better deals on transportation, lodging, and attractions if you book far enough in advance.

Early planning allows you to compare prices and ensure your budget is realistic. Secondly, planning a road trip itinerary can help save time while traveling.

With advanced research, you can ensure that the detours are needed and that all locations on your list are within proximity. Finally, scheduling stops along your route gives you something to look forward to each day and helps structure the trip.

Regarding resources available for planning a road trip, numerous options exist online or even with apps that help make travel easier. Travel websites such as Expedia or Trip Advisor provide information about flights, hotels, car rentals, restaurant suggestions, and reviews from other travelers at every destination.

Photo credit: Depositphotos.

Many cities also have tourism websites sharing upcoming events and local attractions worth checking out. Additionally, apps like Roadtrippers offer custom route recommendations based on travelers’ interests so that they can take advantage of hidden gems! Kara from Whimsy Soul says, “I’ve been using Roadtrippers for years to plan the nitty gritty details of road trips. This handy planning app and desktop version allows you to set your known spots like hotels and major sights, plots the distance, time it takes to drive and gas required between them. It also allows for comments so you can jot down things like ‘remember to bring cash for the park gate’ and gives you a holistic view of the trip in one easy place. The really cool part of this app though, is they’ll suggest sights for you to visit, many which I miss while planning a trip. Using this app I never have to ask my husband ‘where are we headed next?’ since it’s in the app.”

Final Thoughts

Planning a fun and affordable road trip can be quite a task, but it can be done with little time and research. Proper research is vital, as it allows you to secure the best deals on accommodations and activities while giving yourself plenty of time to find coupons or discounts that may help lower costs.

Additionally, being flexible when choosing travel dates or times can save you money on everything from gasoline to lodging. Finally, remember that while the goal is to save money without sacrificing fun experiences, if something doesn’t fit your budget, alternatives are always just as enjoyable. With some careful consideration and proper planning, you will have no problem creating an unforgettable road trip experience at an affordable price.

This article originally appeared on Food Drink Life.

5 thoughts on “How To Plan a Road Trip That’s Both Fun and Affordable”

  1. I came across this post at the exact perfect time! I’m planning a couple trips with roadtrip components and am getting so overwhelmed with setting everything up and timing it correctly — especially in light of our budget. Definitely feeling more confident in my planning now!

  2. Great tips for planning a road trip! I like the idea of considering a rental car to keep the wear and tear off of your own vehicle or to give you a better fit for the trip you have planned, like a convertible while road-tripping along the coast or a minivan if your kids have a friend or two joining in the fun.

  3. Excellent tips and techniques to make the most of road trips! Especially like the entertaining idea for each family member to make a playlist, then each takes turns to play DJ.


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