Last weekend I traveled 814 miles from Detroit, MI to Wrightsville Beach, NC. It was a total of about 26 hours in the car. Although it was a long time to be in the car, I still think road tripping is one of the best ways to travel! And let’s not forget, it can save you a ton of money. Driving through the Appalachian Mountains was absolutely breathtaking and a must see. It’s something you can’t really appreciate when traveling by trains or planes. Don’t get me wrong, as an aspiring travel junkie, any kind of traveling is great, but road trips are a special kind of travel. And, did I mention I didn’t have to spend a fortune? Awesome, right!?
I’ve come to discover that the best way to save money on a road trip is to plan it out before you even get in the car. With a little help from technology and making some basic preparations beforehand, there is plenty you can do to save. Here are a few tips and tricks I’ve found useful that can help you save on your next trip:
1. Apps. Apps. Apps. Do your research. There are hundreds of apps that we owe a huge thank you to for making our lives and wallets richer. The first is Waze. I should warn you, this is not your average navigation app; it is SO much better. I’m talking life changing. This app will share real-time traffic and road conditions to save you from travel hassle, commuting time, and gas money. Speaking of gas money, the next app you will absolutely cherish is Gas Buddy. With the click of a button, you can find the cheapest gas on the go—for free. When driving in an unfamiliar area it is especially important to know where the next gas station is and how much they are charging. The last app that will be essential to your next road trip is the Spotify music app. If you don’t have satellite radio this is one of the best music apps you can get. It allows you to stream Internet radio for free. Not only do you get unlimited access to any album in its catalog, you can also listen to audiobooks and podcasters.
2. Bring your own snacks. Nothing is worse than a “hangry” (hungry-angry) pilot, co-pilot, or passenger. No one likes a Snickers diva and packing snacks before you drive off will save you from a potential meltdown. In my experience, I’ve found healthier snacks keep you energized and alert longer. Plus, they don’t make you crash later in the day.
3. Skip the hotel. I say this only if you can. Luckily, in my case we left late enough to drive through the night. Not everyone can do this but that doesn’t mean you must splurge and get a hotel room if you can’t. My suggestion, pack a tent. What’s more fun than checking out a local campground on your journey? Another great site that’s budget friendly is www.airbnb.com. This website has a list of hosts with extra rooms and entire houses for your stay and can fit all budgets.
4. Fill up smart. As I mentioned, Gas Buddy is a great way to find the cheapest gas prices near you but there definitely other ways to save on gas. Since this is usually one of the largest purchases on a road trip, it’s nice to save where you can. Using a rewards credit card can help you earn cash back when purchasing gas. Another nice way for those who plan ahead of time is to get a discounted gift card for gas stations. Check out Cardpool, CardCash, CardHub and GiftCard Granny for more details. Be sure to check your alerts since these card savings don’t last!
5. Entertainment. I know road trips can get a crammed and every now and then we have to stop and stretch our legs. AAA TripTik Travel Planner is a great resource to see a list of events, attractions and entertainment in the area. As awesome as these entertainment apps can be, sometimes the best finds are usually the ones you don’t plan. Those who are not driving the car, be sure to keep your eyes peeled for tourist stops, antique stores and other scenic places on your way.
Whatever your road trip may be, the proper preparation and planning can save you time, money and get you all the best deals. Safe travels!
Bethany’s Breakdown is a series. You can catch new posts on my credit journey every Saturday on the Quizzle Wire. If you would like to see how it all started, check out my first post Bethany’s Breakdown: What they don’t teach you about personal finance in college.