Road trips often seem like the best option for cost-conscious travelers, but depending on the length and details of the trip, driving can be quite expensive. If you’re planning a road trip on a budget, it’s important to consider ways you can save money both before you leave and while you’re traveling.

Before You Get on the Road

There are many money saving tips you can take advantage of before you start loading up the car. Not only will they save you money, but they also can help keep you safe.

  • Get a tune-up. Make sure your car is in good working order, so you can avoid expensive emergency repairs during your trip. Keeping your tires properly inflated may increase your car’s fuel efficiency, according to Popular Mechanics. Make sure you have a first-aid kit, flashlight and other supplies in your car emergency kit. Portable devices that allow you to jump start your car or inflate your tires can be inexpensive and well worth the cost.
  • Map out your trip so you can pack smart. Buying things along the way that you forgot to pack can really add up. Before you leave, create at least a rough itinerary so you’ll know if you will need a bathing suit, hiking shoes, gym clothes, camping equipment or other essentials.
  • Let your credit card company know. Before any trip, it’s a good idea to let your credit card company know you’re traveling, says Credit Karma. If your credit card issuer notices out-of-state charges on your card, it might suspect the card was stolen and temporarily cut off your access to it. Fraud protection is a great feature if your card actually does get stolen … but it may slow you down if you suddenly can’t use your credit card on a trip.

Common Costs to Plan For

  • Food. Dining out along the way can cost you a lot, as will buying snacks at every pit stop. Pack plenty of snacks and a cooler full of drinks, and check out grocery stores along the way to create less expensive meals.
  • Gas. Apps and online tools like GasBuddy can help you find the cheapest gas in your area. You might also be able to save money by filling up well outside of major cities, instead of at more expensive gas stations in denser areas.
  • Lodging. As you create your itinerary, pinpoint cities where you’ll stop for the night and book hotels or bed and breakfasts in advance. This will let you do some comparison shopping and make sure the price of the room includes all the amenities you need (like parking, laundry or WiFi). If you just need a place to sleep for the night, hotels that are outside a city center may offer a better deal.
  • You might also consider a home-sharing service like Airbnb where prices may be lower than a hotel, according to

Unexpected Costs to Avoid

  • The price of driving with a lead foot. Besides being dangerous, speeding puts you at risk of getting pricey traffic tickets. It also lowers your car’s fuel efficiency, according to Budget Rent-a-Car. And, while you’re driving more carefully, also park more carefully in order to avoid parking tickets.
  • Getting lost. It may be obvious these days, but make sure to use your GPS system or a mapping app. Accidentally driving miles out of your way wastes valuable time and gas.

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