Planning a Summer Road Trip? Here's How to Make it Even More Affordable
Just like baseball (which has its roots in continental Europe) and apple pie (whose fruit hails from Asia and recipe comes from the British), the great American road trip isn't actually all that American. Even the automobile is a German invention.
But just a decade after Karl Benz's first patented motorcar rolled down a Straße in Deutschland, Ford's Model T hit U.S. streets — and the rest is history. Literally.
Fast forward a hundred years, and road tripping is basically our national summer pastime. And it makes sense, too. Regardless of its origins, the road trip is undeniably all-American; there's nothing like zipping down the wide-open highway to refresh your sense of freedom and independence.
It's also one of the best ways to see such a sprawling, diverse landscape, whose 3,000-mile span is spiderwebbed with roadways totaling an exponentially longer drivable distance. Oh, and it's often more affordable than airfare... with no annoying TSA lineup required.
Want to Save Even More Money on Your Road Trip?
If you're planning your own epic highway journey this year, we want to help — by offering some easy, efficient ways to save money on this already-budget-friendly travel style.
Here's how to make your fantastic, frugal summer freeway jaunt even more affordable.
- Choose your destination(s) wisely.
Obviously, some destinations are more expensive than others; no one's planning a dirt-cheap getaway to Los Angeles or New York.
But it's actually not quite as simple as avoiding major metros. If you really want to get the most bang for your travel budget, find spots that make your favorite vacation pastimes accessible and affordable.
Can't get enough museum time? Washington D.C. isn't the cheapest city in the world, but the entire Smithsonian complex is free to enter. Looking for great live music? The cost of a beer or two could cover an evening of world-class entertainment in Austin, New Orleans, or Nashville. Fine-tune your travels to maximize your pleasure and protect your pocketbook.
- Plan ahead — but not too far ahead.
You should definitely set out with some sense of an itinerary, since last-minute hotel rooms are a great way to get price-gouged — but so is reserving early, according to USA Today. Unfortunately, there's no real sweet spot that guarantees the best rates, and even three weeks lead time could cost you.
Their recommendation? Start monitoring prices at your destination about 40 days before your travels, and if you see them start to rise, book then. That said, if you do find yourself in a last-minute, need-a-room-right-now pickle, check out HotelTonight, an app that helps travelers find steeply discounted rooms at the eleventh hour.
- Find free fun.
Open-air markets and festivals, sunset views from hilltops and beaches, or plain old people-watching in public parks — no matter where you're headed, there's undoubtedly quality fun to be had completely free of charge.
You can also maximize the money you do spend on activities by buying them in bulk — such as getting multiple museum and attraction entries with a CityPASS. On that note, if the National Parks are at all on your radar, I highly recommend purchasing an annual pass. It'll get you, your vehicle, and up to three guests into any park for a whole year for just $80; Yellowstone alone costs $30, for context.
- Pack a picnic... and maybe dinner, too.
Splurging a few times is part of the fun, of course, but constantly eating restaurant meals is an easy way to spend a lot more money than you mean to., especially if you're feeding a whole family.
Bring snacks for the road itself, for sure; it's completely pointless to blow twenty bucks at the drive-thru. But you might also consider fixing some of your meals once you get there— and I don't just mean protein bars or bagels for breakfast. So many hotels and vacation rentals have fully-functional kitchens these days, and even cheap motels often have a mini fridge and microwave. Nab a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken and a bag of salad at the grocery store and save the cash for some other fun activity.
- Consider alternative accommodations.
You're likely already using Airbnb, whose swanky, inclusive digs often give hotel rooms a run for their money. But there are lots of other affordable alternative travel accommodation options you might not be thinking about — like hostels, Homestay, or Couchsurfing.
Obviously, your ability to take advantage of these alternatives will depend on your circumstances; you probably don't want to crash on a stranger's couch if you've got three children in tow. But considering how difficult it can be to find a hotel room for under $100 per night in even suburban areas, it's worth taking a look at your options.
- When it comes to fuel, it's OK (and easy!) to be cheap.
If you're taking a road trip, you're going to have to gas up regularly. That's just the nature of the beast. But why spend more on this necessity than you need to?
Apps like GasBuddy make it easy to find the cheapest available fuel in the area, no matter what your vehicle requires — and by the way, unless you've got a seriously fancy car, regular is probably fine. When you're driving hundreds or thousands of miles, even a few cents per gallon adds up quickly, so yes, it's worth driving the extra three blocks to the next station.
- Stop speeding.
Speeding is more costly for your gas tank, for one — and it can also add an instant unexpected line item to your travel budget if you get pulled over and written a speeding ticket.
So lay off the lead foot and take your time. Besides, isn't a road trip all about the journey?
All content provided in this blog is supplied by Jamie Cattanach and is for informational purposes only. Barclaycard makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information contained in the blog or found by following any link within this blog.