Family with suitcases leading against back of their vehicle

Save Big on Summer Road Trips: Affordable Travel Tips

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Summer is the perfect time for road trips, and planning one can be super exciting. The weather is great, the days are long, and there’s nothing like the freedom of the open road.

But driving cross-country or even just a few hours away can get expensive quickly. Gas, food, lodging, and entertainment add up fast.

The good news is that there are a variety of ways to save money on your summer road trip without sacrificing fun or comfort.

In this blog post, I’ll share some practical tips and tricks to help budget travelers and families make the most of their summer adventures without breaking the bank.

Whether you’re heading to the beach, the mountains, or visiting family and friends, here are some simple and smart tips to help you keep your trip budget-friendly.

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Family with suitcases leaning against their vehicle

Tips for Affordable Summer Road Trips

Plan Ahead and Budget Wisely

Before you hit the road, take some time to plan your trip and carefully create a travel budget.

Decide on your destination, map out your route, and estimate the costs for gas, food, lodging, and activities. Being prepared and knowing what to expect will help you avoid surprises and keep your spending in check.

Using apps like Google Maps or Waze can help you find the most logical route, saving time and fuel. You can also look for free or low-cost attractions along your way to keep entertainment costs down.

Having a budget is crucial for any road trip. Write down all your expected expenses and try to stick to it as closely as possible.

Doing so will help you avoid impulse spending and keep your finances under control.

Save on Gas

Gas is one of the most substantial expenses on any road trip. But, the good news is, there are several ways to save money at the pump.

First, make sure your car is in good condition. A well-maintained vehicle gets better gas mileage, which can save you money in the long run. Check your tire pressure, change the oil, and replace any worn-out parts before you leave.

Next, apps like GasBuddy can be used to find the cheapest gas prices along the way. These apps will help you locate the best deals and avoid overpaying for fuel. Also, think about using a credit card that offers cashback or rewards for gas purchases to help you earn some money back on your fuel expenses.

Finally, drive smart. Avoid speeding, use cruise control when possible, and try to maintain a steady speed. Aggressive driving and frequent braking can decrease your fuel efficiency, costing you more money.

Pack Your Own Food and Drinks

Eating out can be a major expense on a road trip, especially if you’re traveling with a family. Pack your food and drinks instead of stopping at restaurants and fast food joints. Bring a cooler filled with sandwiches, snacks, fruits, and beverages to keep everyone satisfied on the road.

Not only will this save you money, but it can also be healthier and more enjoyable than relying on fast food. You can have picnics at rest stops or scenic spots along your route, adding to the overall experience of your trip.

If you do need to eat out, look for deals and discounts. Many restaurants offer special deals for travelers, such as kids eat free nights or discounted meals. Apps like Yelp and Groupon can also help you find the best deals on dining options in the area.

Choose Budget-Friendly Accommodations

Next to gas, lodging can be one of the most costly expenses on a road trip. To save money, consider alternative accommodations.

Camping is a great alternative for budget travelers and families who enjoy the outdoors. Many campgrounds offer affordable rates and facilities like showers, restrooms, and picnic areas.

If camping isn’t your thing, look for budget-friendly hotels or motels. Booking websites like, Expedia, and Hotwire can help you find the best deals on accommodations. Additionally, consider staying at chain hotels that offer loyalty programs or discounts for members.

Another great option is to use vacation rental platforms like Airbnb or Vrbo. These sites often have many budget-friendly options, including entire homes, apartments, or private rooms. And, with many of these, you’ll have access to a kitchen so you’ll save money on meals.

Take Advantage of Free and Low-Cost Activities

One of the easiest ways to save money on your road trip is to take advantage of free and low-cost activities. Many cities and towns offer free attractions like parks, museums, and historical sites. Research before your trip to find out what’s available along your route.

Hiking, swimming, and exploring nature are also great ways to have some fun without spending much money. National and state parks often have low entrance fees and offer a variety of outdoor activities for all ages.

You can also look for local events and festivals happening during your trip. Many communities host free or low-cost events, such as concerts, fairs, and farmers’ markets. These can be a great way to experience local culture and make your trip more memorable.

Be Smart About Souvenirs

Souvenirs can be a great way to remember your trip but can also be a major drain on your budget. Instead of buying expensive mementos at every stop, look for more affordable options. Postcards, magnets, and keychains are often inexpensive and easy to pack.

Another idea is to collect free or low-cost items that have sentimental value. For example, you could collect rocks, shells, or pressed pennies from different locations.

Taking lots of photos and creating a digital or physical scrapbook can also be a great way to preserve memories without spending a lot of money.

If you do want to buy souvenirs, set a budget and stick to it. Your souvenir budget will help you avoid overspending and ensure that you have enough money for other, more important things.

Use Travel Rewards and Discounts

Take advantage of travel rewards and discounts to save money on your road trip.

Many credit cards offer travel rewards for using the card. Rewards can include things like cashback, points, or miles, that can be redeemed for gas, lodging, or other travel expenses.

Also look for discounts through memberships and affiliations. For example, AAA members can often get discounts on hotels, car rentals, and attractions. Similarly, AARP members, military personnel, and students may be eligible for special deals and discounts.

Plan for Unexpected Expenses

No matter how well you plan, unexpected expenses can arise on any road trip. Be prepared by setting aside some extra money in your budget for emergencies. Having emergency money can help you avoid financial stress if something goes wrong.

Having a roadside assistance plan can also provide peace of mind and save you money in case of car trouble. Many insurance companies and organizations like AAA offer affordable roadside assistance plans.

You should also keep a small emergency kit in your vehicle with things like a first aid kit, a flashlight, extra batteries, and some basic tools.

Being prepared will help you handle minor issues without having to spend extra money.

Travel During Off-Peak Times

Traveling during the week instead of on weekends can help you save money on your road trip. Prices for gas, lodging, and attractions are often lower during weekdays and outside of peak travel seasons.

You should also consider driving during off-peak hours to avoid traffic and save on fuel. Early mornings and late evenings are often less congested, allowing you to make better time and use less gas.

Share Costs with Friends or Family

Traveling with others, such as friends or family, can help you save money by sharing costs. Split the expenses for gas, lodging, and food to make your trip more affordable for everyone.

If you’re traveling with a group, consider renting a larger vehicle or van. Even with the rental cost, it can be more cost-effective than taking several cars and paying for additional gas.

Sharing accommodations, such as a vacation rental, can also be cheaper than booking multiple hotel rooms. Plus, having a shared space can make your trip more enjoyable and provide group activities and bonding opportunities.

Use Technology to Your Advantage

Numerous apps and websites are designed to help travelers save money and make the most of their trips. Use technology to find the best deals and plan your route.

Navigation apps like Google Maps or Waze will help you find the best routes and avoid traffic. And gas price apps like GasBuddy will help you find the cheapest fuel prices along the way.

Travel deal websites like Expedia, Kayak, and Priceline can help you find discounts on lodging, car rentals, and activities. Also, be sure to check out review sites like TripAdvisor and Yelp to find budget-friendly dining options and attractions.

Final Thoughts

Taking a summer road trip doesn’t have to be expensive. With a little preparation and smart choices, you can enjoy an affordable and memorable adventure.

Budget travelers and families can make the most of their road trips by following these tips and tricks without breaking the bank.

Remember to plan ahead, pack your own food, choose budget-friendly accommodations, and take advantage of free and low-cost activities. Use technology and travel rewards to find the best deals and save money.

Ready to hit the road? Start planning your budget-friendly summer road trip today and create memories to last a lifetime.

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