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20+ TOP Road Trip Money Saving Tips (Costs, Food, Accom etc)

Discover the top 20+ Road Trip Money Saving Tips covering fuel, food, accommodation, and more! Maximize adventure, and minimize expenses.

Embarking on a road trip is an adventure that beckons us with the promise of freedom, exploration, and unforgettable experiences. While the open road holds endless possibilities, it’s essential to strike a balance between excitement and budget-consciousness to ensure a smooth and cost-effective journey.

Whether you’re planning a cross-country expedition or a weekend escape, our comprehensive guide to the top 20+ Road Trip Money Saving Tips will be your trusty companion.

From reducing fuel costs and savvy accommodation choices to smart food strategies and wallet-friendly activities, we’ve compiled a treasure trove of practical tips to make your road trip dreams a reality without breaking the bank. Let’s dive in and discover how to maximize every mile while keeping your finances on track.

Money Saving Road Trip Tips cover photo of a red car driving on a black tarmac highway with grassy verges either side Disclaimer & Affiliate Disclosure: Almost all posts on this site contain affiliate links, and this travel guide to the Top Money Saving Road Trip Tips is no different. This means that if you click on any of the links in this post (and make a purchase) I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Each post is carefully crafted to (hopefully!) answer all your questions and recommendations are made where we believe they will improve your trip and help with your planning. As such we thank you in advance should you decide to click & buy. Read my full Disclosure here.

In This Post

20+ Top Road Trip Money-Saving Tips

Plan your route carefully to minimize unnecessary mileage and fuel costs.

Map of US and Canada with red route lines drawn all over it Planning your route carefully is one of the best ways to keep your road trip budget in check. By taking some time before hitting the road to map out your journey, you can minimize unnecessary mileage and reduce fuel costs significantly.

Consider using GPS navigation apps (more below) that allow you to compare different routes in terms of distance and estimated fuel consumption. Opt for the most direct and efficient paths, avoiding congested urban areas during rush hours.

Additionally, when mapping out your route, plan your stops strategically to avoid backtracking or detours that can add unnecessary miles. Not only will this save you money on fuel, but it will also give you more time to enjoy the destinations and attractions you’ve planned to visit.

Be extra careful when planning your route if driving an electric vehicle, as you will need to take into account not only the range of the vehicle itself but also where the next charging station is.

Ensure your Car Insurance or Car Rental Insurance Policy is up to date

White SVU parked on the side of a sandy higway, a man in denim shorts and black tshirt leans on the back looking into the distance Ensuring that your car insurance or car rental insurance policy is up to date is a critical step before embarking on your road trip – as is having the insurance company phone number on hand (just in case!)

Accidents or unforeseen events can happen on the road, and having proper insurance coverage provides you with financial protection and peace of mind.

If you’re using your own car, confirm that your car insurance policy is current and provides the necessary coverage for your trip, including liability, collision, and comprehensive coverage.

If you’re renting a vehicle, carefully review the rental company’s auto insurance options and choose the level of coverage that suits your needs. While additional insurance, such as roadside assistance, might incur an extra cost, it can save you from significant expenses in case of an accident or damage.

Use smartphone apps or websites to find the cheapest gas stations along your route.

A Womans hand holding a green petrol pump putting gas into a red car Finding the cheapest gas stations along your road trip route is essential for saving money on fuel expenses. Thanks to modern technology, being able to save money on gas has become more accessible than ever before.

Numerous smartphone apps and websites specialize in tracking gas prices in real-time, helping you locate the most budget-friendly options along your journey.

One popular app is Gas Buddy, which provides a user-friendly interface to search for nearby gas stations and compare prices effortlessly. This app relies on crowd-sourced data to ensure accurate and up-to-date information. Another great option is Waze, a navigation app that not only offers real-time traffic updates but also displays nearby gas stations with their current prices.

By utilizing these apps, you can make informed decisions on where to refuel, potentially saving a significant amount of money during your road trip. Remember to check the app regularly, especially when approaching larger towns or cities, as prices can fluctuate based on location and time of day.

Pack a cooler with snacks and drinks from a grocery store instead of buying expensive items at gas stations.

Woman standing between 2 aisles in a gas station, surrounded by snacks. She is wearning denim shorts, a while hooded top draped around her waist and a pair of blue converse Packing a cooler with snacks and drinks from a grocery store is a smart money-saving tactic for any road trip. While it may require a bit of pre-planning, the benefits are well worth it.

Gas station convenience stores often charge premium prices for their snacks and beverages, and those road trip food costs can add up over the course of your journey. By taking the time to stock up on your favorite treats before hitting the road, you not only save money but also gain the freedom to choose from a wider selection of items that suit your taste and dietary preferences.

Healthy options like fresh fruits, vegetables, and homemade sandwiches can be conveniently packed and easily accessible in your cooler. Plus, having your own road trip snacks on hand reduces the need for frequent stops, saving you both time and fuel; AND can be refilled when you are next passing a supermarket or grocery store.

Bring reusable water bottles to refill at rest stops or restaurants instead of buying bottled water.

Black travel water bottle in focus on a rock in front of a lake, with a forest in the background. Bringing reusable water bottles on your road trip is not only an environmentally responsible choice but also a great way to save money.

Instead of buying expensive bottled water at gas stations or tourist attractions, you can refill your bottles at rest stops, restaurants, or any place that offers free drinking water. Many restaurants and cafes are happy to provide water refills if you ask politely. Not only does this save you from the constant expense of buying bottled water, but it also reduces plastic waste, helping to protect the environment.

Take a look at our guide to our favorite Travel Water Bottles (+ how to pick one!) here and find the perfect travel companion.

Utilize loyalty programs and rewards cards for discounts at hotels, restaurants, and gas stations.

Subway Reward cardTaking advantage of loyalty programs and rewards cards can lead to significant savings during your road trip. Many hotels, restaurants, and gas stations offer loyalty programs that provide discounts, freebies, or points that can be redeemed for future benefits.

Signing up for these programs is often free and can unlock various perks that would otherwise be unavailable to regular customers. For instance, major hotel chains like Marriott Bonvoy, Hilton Honors, or IHG Rewards Club offer members exclusive rates, room upgrades, and even free nights based on accumulated points. Similarly, popular restaurant chains like Starbucks Rewards and Subway MyWay Rewards offer free items and discounts to frequent customers. Gas station chains such as Shell or BP often have loyalty programs that provide discounts on fuel or in-store purchases.

By enrolling in these loyalty programs and carrying the corresponding rewards cards, you can save money on accommodations, dining, and fuel costs throughout your road trip while also enjoying additional benefits and special offers tailored to your preferences.

Keep an eye on your speed.

Close up of car speedometer Keeping an eye on your speed is not only a safety measure but also a smart money-saving strategy during your road trip. Driving within the speed limit not only reduces the risk of accidents and ensures the safety of everyone on board but also helps you avoid costly speeding fines that can quickly inflate your expenses.

Additionally, maintaining a consistent speed using cruise control on highways can enhance your car’s fuel efficiency, as it prevents unnecessary acceleration and deceleration.

Drive economically by adhering to speed limits and using cruise control when appropriate, you can enjoy a smoother and more economical journey, all while staying within the law and avoiding potential penalties.

Consider camping or staying at budget-friendly accommodations like motels or hostels.

Old caravan with deck outside, two people in deck chairs with a drink in hand sat outside at dusk Considering camping or opting for budget-friendly accommodations like motels or hostels can be a game-changer for your road trip budget.

Camping allows you to connect with nature, experience breathtaking landscapes, and often comes at a fraction of the cost of traditional hotels. Many national parks, state parks, and public lands offer camping facilities with basic amenities, making it an affordable and adventurous lodging option.

If camping isn’t your cup of tea (it certainly isn’t mine!), motels and hostels are excellent alternatives. Motels along major highways are known for their affordability and convenience, providing a comfortable place to rest without breaking the bank, especially when you book directly.

Hostels, on the other hand, cater to budget-conscious travelers and often have a mix of private rooms or shared rooms with dormitory-style setups that keep costs low while fostering a social atmosphere.

Cook meals at campsites or with a portable stove instead of dining out for every meal.

Meat cooking in a foil dish on top of a smoking coal BBQ Opting to cook meals at campsites or with a portable stove can be a practical and cost-saving approach during a road trip.

Eating out for every meal can quickly add up and strain your budget. By preparing your meals, you not only save money but also gain the freedom to choose healthier options and tailor your meals to suit your preferences. Many campsites are equipped with cooking facilities, and even if they aren’t, portable stoves or grills are lightweight and easy to carry.

Pack ingredients from grocery stores or supermarkets to whip up simple yet satisfying dishes, and don’t forget to enjoy the outdoor dining experience amidst nature’s beauty.

Camp cooking your meals allows you to extend your road trip funds, ensuring that you have the financial flexibility to indulge in occasional treats or special experiences without worrying about excessive expenses on every meal.

Opt for free or low-cost attractions and activities like hiking, visiting public parks, or exploring historical sites.

Two female hikers walking down a mountainside grass covered trail Opting for free or low-cost attractions and activities is a fantastic way to make the most of your road trip without draining your wallet.

Nature provides an abundance of scenic wonders, so consider hiking through picturesque trails, exploring public parks, or picnicking by a serene lake. Many cities boast free walking tours, allowing you to delve into their history and culture without spending a dime. (Although, these guides often work on tips only, particularly in Europe, so keep that in mind).

Visiting historical sites or attending local events can also be enriching experiences that won’t break the bank, and, additionally, keep an eye out for free concerts, art exhibits, or community gatherings, which often offer unique insights into the region’s character.

Love the US National Parks? Check out our Complete Guide to All 63 US National Parks which includes pics, maps, highlights, history, and even a free printable checklist! OR if you’re focused on the West, we have a complete guide to all the National Parks on the West Coast (also with a free printable checklist!) – just don’t forget your National Park Passes!

Share expenses (and save gas!) by carpooling with friends or family members for a multi-vehicle road trip.

Four 4x4 off road venhicles with roof racks parked in a semi circle facing into a white sand desert Carpooling with friends or family members for a multi-vehicle road trip is a brilliant strategy to slash expenses and enhance the overall experience. By sharing the travel costs, such as fuel, tolls, and parking fees, among multiple individuals, everyone can benefit from significant savings.

Additionally, carpooling fosters camaraderie, laughter, and shared memories, making the journey even more enjoyable. It also minimizes the environmental impact by reducing the number of vehicles on the road.

Planning the trip together allows for efficient route selection and accommodation arrangements, ensuring that everyone’s preferences and budgets are taken into account. Carpooling not only lightens the financial burden but also creates a sense of togetherness and adventure, turning your road trip into an unforgettable bonding experience with loved ones

Keep your vehicle well-maintained to avoid costly breakdowns and ensure optimal fuel efficiency.

Small silver car parked off the side of the road in a forrest Keeping your vehicle well-maintained is a crucial aspect of any successful road trip, as it not only prevents unexpected breakdowns but also contributes to optimal fuel efficiency.

Before hitting the road, perform a thorough inspection, checking the tires, brakes, fluids, and all essential components. Regular oil changes and air filter replacements can significantly enhance your car’s performance and fuel economy. Properly inflated tires reduce rolling resistance, resulting in better gas mileage. Additionally, ensure that your vehicle’s engine is tuned up and in excellent condition.

A well-maintained vehicle not only saves you from the stress and expenses of roadside breakdowns but also ensures that you get the most out of every gallon of fuel, ultimately making your road trip smoother, safer, and more cost-effective.

Research and take advantage of discounted admission days or coupons for tourist attractions.

Researching and taking advantage of discounted admission days or coupons for tourist attractions can lead to substantial savings during your road trip. Many popular attractions, museums, amusement parks, and historical sites offer special discounts on certain days of the week or during off-peak seasons.

Take the time to check their websites, social media pages, or local tourism guides for promotional offers and coupon deals. You can also find discount websites or apps that aggregate various attraction deals in one place. Planning your itinerary around these discounted days can significantly reduce your overall trip expenses while still allowing you to enjoy all the must-see attractions.

Additionally, keep an eye out for package deals or combo offers that bundle multiple attractions together at a reduced price. These are often found by looking for ‘city cards‘ in whatever location you are heading to.

Bring a travel-size first aid kit and essential car repair tools to handle minor issues on your own.

Bringing a travel-size first aid kit and essential car repair tools is a wise move for any road trip.

While we hope for smooth travels, unexpected minor mishaps can occur and emergency kits on hand can quickly deal with most eventualities.

Having a first aid kit ensures you’re prepared to handle minor injuries or ailments promptly. It should include bandages, antiseptic wipes, pain relievers, and other essentials.

Equally important is having a basic car repair toolkit, which can empower you to address minor vehicle issues on your own. Tools like a tire pressure gauge, jumper cables, a multi-tool, and a flashlight can prove invaluable during emergencies.

Being self-sufficient in handling minor setbacks not only provides a sense of security but also saves time and money that might otherwise be spent seeking assistance.

Avoid toll roads where possible and use maps or navigation apps to find alternative routes.

Avoiding toll roads where possible is an effective money-saving strategy for your road trip.

Toll fees can quickly accumulate and put a dent in your travel budget. Fortunately, many navigation apps, such as Google Maps and Waze, offer options to avoid toll roads while still providing efficient and alternative routes.

Before starting your journey, take a few minutes to adjust the settings in your preferred app to exclude toll roads from your route. Not only will this help you save money, but it may also lead you on scenic drives and through charming small towns that you might have missed on a highway.

Additionally, using traditional paper maps can also aid in identifying toll-free routes and give you a broader view of your options.

Use free or inexpensive navigation apps instead of purchasing standalone GPS devices.

Mans hand holding a phone with a map and directions on the screen in focus in front of a road winding through a forrest Using free or inexpensive navigation apps instead of purchasing standalone GPS devices is a cost-effective approach that doesn’t compromise on functionality. Most smartphones today come equipped with reliable built-in GPS capabilities, and there is a plethora of navigation apps available for download.

Apps like Google Maps, Waze, MapsMe (my favorite!) and MapQuest offer turn-by-turn directions, real-time traffic updates, and points of interest, all without the need for an extra device purchase. These apps are frequently updated, ensuring you have access to the latest maps and traffic information. 

With the widespread availability of free or low-cost navigation apps, there’s no need to invest in expensive standalone GPS devices when you can access equally reliable and feature-rich navigation services right from your pocket.

Pack light to reduce fuel consumption and avoid excess baggage fees if you rent a car.

Packing light for your road trip not only makes for a hassle-free journey but also contributes to substantial fuel savings. Every additional pound in your vehicle translates to extra fuel consumption, especially during long distances. By being mindful of what you pack and leaving unnecessary items behind, you can significantly improve your car’s fuel efficiency.

Furthermore, if you plan to rent a car for your trip, traveling light can help you avoid excess baggage fees, which can quickly add up and inflate your overall travel expenses.

Focus on packing versatile clothing and essential items, and consider doing laundry during your trip if necessary.

Look for deals on travel websites or apps for last-minute hotel bookings and discounts.

Vertical Motel Sign with alternating blue and pink individual letters attached to a white pole When planning a road trip, be sure to explore the myriad of deals available on travel websites and apps for last-minute hotel bookings and discounts. Taking advantage of these offers can result in substantial cost savings and make your journey more budget-friendly.

Websites like, Expedia, and HotelTonight, as well as travel apps like Hopper and Kayak, often feature exclusive last-minute deals on accommodations. Whether you prefer luxury hotels or budget-friendly motels, you can find options that suit your needs and preferences at discounted rates.

Keep an eye out for flash sales, promotional codes, cheap accommodation and special offers, which can significantly reduce your accommodation expenses.

Travel during the shoulder season or off-peak times to save on accommodations and attractions.

Yellowstone National Park Traveling during the shoulder season or off-peak times is a savvy strategy for road trippers looking to save on accommodations and attractions.

During these less crowded periods, many hotels, motels, and vacation rentals offer more affordable rates, as demand is lower compared to peak tourist seasons. You can often find attractive deals and discounts, allowing you to stay in top-rated accommodations without breaking the bank.

Additionally, attractions and popular tourist spots are generally less crowded during off-peak times, offering a more serene and enjoyable experience. You might even score discounts on admission fees or special offers for attractions looking to attract visitors during quieter periods.

Avoid impulse buying by setting a daily budget and tracking your expenses.

Hand holding up a wad of American Dollar notes Avoiding impulse buying during your road trip is essential to keep your budget in check. One effective way to achieve this is by setting a daily budget and diligently tracking your expenses.

Before hitting the road, calculate your overall trip budget and break it down into a daily allowance for accommodations, food, attractions, and miscellaneous expenses. Utilize budgeting apps like Mint or You Need a Budget (YNAB) to stay organized and monitor your spending in real-time. These apps allow you to categorize expenses, set financial goals, and receive alerts when you approach your daily limit.

Additionally, consider using expense tracker apps like Expensify or TripLog to log your fuel, tolls, and other travel-related costs.

Use your own car or rent a fuel-efficient vehicle to save on gas costs.

Electric car being charged Opting to use your own car or renting a fuel-efficient vehicle can lead to significant savings on gas costs during your road trip.

If you already own a car, make sure it’s well-maintained and has good fuel efficiency to optimize your mileage. Regularly check the tire pressure, change the air filter, and keep up with oil changes to ensure your vehicle is running at its best.

On the other hand, if your car is not fuel-efficient, consider renting a more economical vehicle for the trip. Many rental car companies offer a range of fuel-efficient options, such as hybrid or electric vehicles, that can dramatically reduce your fuel expenses. While there might be an upfront cost for renting, the long-term savings on gas can make it a cost-effective choice.

Turn off your car’s engine during extended stops to conserve fuel.

Road Trip Tips to get you from A to B Turning off your car’s engine during extended stops is a simple yet effective tactic to conserve fuel and save money on your road trip. Whether you’re taking a lunch break, sightseeing, or waiting for an extended period, idling your engine consumes unnecessary fuel and contributes to greenhouse gas emissions.

By turning off the engine during these stops, you can significantly reduce fuel consumption and environmental impact. Modern cars are designed to handle frequent starts and stops, so there’s no need to worry about excessive wear and tear on the engine.

Additionally, this practice not only saves money on fuel costs but also promotes a more eco-friendly approach to traveling.


We hope these tips have helped you with your road tripping planning, whether it’s a romantic road trip, a family road trip, or a group road trip with friends. And if you found this money-saving guide helpful – or know someone heading off on a road trip soon that could use these tips to save money on the road, be sure to share it with them.

Dark green forrest sits either side of a road on wich there is a bright red car and the text overlay: Life to too short to not go on that spontaneous road trip

And if you liked our guide to the best road trips in Europe, take a look at the other recent posts, packing tips, travel accessories, travel resources, travel guides, ultimate guides and packing lists in this series:

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Hi There! Thanks for reading my travel tips for the TOP Money Saving Road Trip Tips to help you Budget for a Road Trip I just wanted to let you know that this post may contain affiliate links, which means if you purchase something after clicking a link, I may get a small commission – which is at absolutely no cost to you. If you enjoyed this article and are going to be searching for some of the things I mention anyway, I would love it if you could click through from the links above & thank you ahead of time! Read my full disclosure here. And thank you for reading the MakeTimeToSeeTheWorld travel blog.


Tuesday 22nd of August 2023

Amazing ideas. loved reading this post:)

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