By Jamie Lindsey
Summers were made for traveling. Road trips, near or far, are what I look forward to during the sunny season. As a teacher, I get the privilege of having summers off if I’m not working summer school. This year, June & July are free for me and my road trip cravings are stirring. However, as a teacher, I have a very limited budget, and while travel sounds nice, it just isn’t always plausible because of the costs. Traveling is expensive! I won’t let that stop me! So, while I’m planning my solo road trip I’m taking to Arizona next month, I’m using the budgeting skills I’ve learned to make travel a little cheaper. And if you don’t know me personally, I’m a huge cheapskate and hardly ever pay full price for stuff. Let me give you some road trip tips to traveling cheap and staying on budget.
If you drive when taking a trip, gas can sometimes be one of the most expensive things that may take up the majority of your money. Many people may think that gas is something you can’t really save money on during a trip. Fortunately, that’s wrong! Here are some ways you can save money on gas during your road trips this summer:
- Use a gas price tracker app like Gas Guru to find the cheapest gas in your area. Sometimes, truck stop gas prices can be .10 more than gas just down the street. Use this app to find the cheapest prices in the area you’re in; it even has a location detection to track the closest stations near you (which is also helpful for emergencies).
- Are you a T-Mobile customer? Download the T-Mobile Tuesday app to save .10 a gallon once a week at any Shell Station.
- Buying Wal-Mart gift cards can save you money at the pump. Normally, with a Wal-Mart card you can save .03 a gallon, sometimes they have a special where you get .10 off per gallon. So before your road trip, get some prepaid Wal-Mart gift cards to use on your trip (Only usable at Wal-Mart gas stations).
- Gas Station Apps offer a lot of variety in saving some money. Kum ‘n’ Go has a rewards program that once a certain amount of money is spent, you are eligible for a reward and one of those rewards is .10 per gallon. Shell gas stations, Flying J truck stops, Love’s, etc. are just a few examples of gas stations that have rewards programs and apps you can sign up for that are free and you can gain rewards to help save some money. Check out your favorite gas station to see if they have a rewards program available.
Before you leave for your long trip, you must grab snacks!
- The Dollar Tree is THE place to get snacks cheap! All your favorite candy, cookies, and chips are more than likely overflowing from their aisles. For only a buck each, grab your go-to road trip snacks! For me personally, chocolate covered pretzels and pub mix is my go-to snack for the road. The Dollar Tree also has cheap drinks! Grab a six-pack of water or your favorite soda or tea! For $1 each, it’s much better than paying for expensive gas station drinks. Spend maybe $20 in total for snacks and drinks and you won’t need to buy any on the way!
- Fast Food is a cheap and quick meal on the road. Stock up on coupons from your favorite fast food place (they always send them in the mail). This will easily save you money on the road!
- Dinner & dining out can get quite pricey on a road trip. Download apps like Retailmenot or Groupon to find savings and deals at establishments in your travel area.
- Eat cheap by stopping at food trucks or small hole-in-the-wall places that serve good food for a low price! You can always use the Yelp app to view menus and look at the prices for local eating establishments.
Enjoying different experiences while you’re away from home is what traveling is all about! We all want to find fun places to go but don’t want to spend a lot of money. Here’s some tips to get you going:
- Before you leave on your trip, look up free things to do in or around your travel city. Museums, parks, trails, concerts and more can all be found for free in some of your travel destinations. I love going to the local art museums, book stores, parks and malls just to see what everything is like. Look up summer activities for kids (if you’re traveling with them) to find free events in your travel city.
- Theme Parks can be very expensive, just for the tickets! Try to find deals online before you go or use the Groupon app to see if any discounts are available there. For example, if you’re a teacher, or a spouse or offspring of a teacher, they get a free entry to Silver Dollar City (and family gets half priced) for the entire month of June! (I’m pretty sure this is just one entry). Those tickets are about $70! It will save those teachers a lot of (much needed) money! McDonalds also usually has a discount ticket price on the back of their receipts. Use them if you’re going!
- Always look online for specials, discounts, or family fun events to try to save some money while staying entertained.
- Use the Roadtrippers app! I started using this app to prep for my Arizona trip and it has so many cool things on it! All you do is type in your destination, click on what you want to find, and the app will route your travel and give you things to find/see on the way. This app has already given me a lot of roadside attractions I’m going to stop at during my trip, as well as food places, trails, and hotels on my way.
Honestly, I don’t really know how to save money at motels/hotels other than finding cheap rooms, booking in advance, and not staying on the weekends. But in today’s sharing economy, there are so many alternatives to hotels that might lead to a whole new adventure for you while saving a few bucks!
- For those that don’t know, hotel prices are higher on the weekends. Plan your trip where your hotel stay will be during the week, and your rates will be a lot cheaper!
- Travel sites like Expedia or Travelocity will compare prices and try to find you a good deal on a room. Watch out for any extra fees though! As well as cancellation fees and deposits.
- Consider staying in an AirBnb. This is a house-sharing service where you can rent out a room or whole house/apartment from a local. AirBnbs are great because you can customize your search according to your price point and specific needs, they provide access to a kitchen so you can cook for yourself (another way to save!), and they offer a chance to see how the locals live.
- If you’re really looking to save, consider staying in a hostel. Most people think of hostels being more of a European and Asian thing, but most major American cities have hostels too. The app Hostelworld is a great way to search for them. Especially if you’re a female solo traveler, you can stay in a bunk room with other women and it’s a great way to make friends on your trip! Not into dorm living? Most hostels today offer private rooms and are becoming more popular for business travelers and families.
I hope these tips might help you save a little more on your road trips this summer. I do whatever I can to be a cheapskate, and now you can, too! Let us know if you have more travel tips for saving money! (Mostly, because I want to know!) Now, you can make a trip without going over budget, which is the best kind of trip!