Though it does make for some hot roads, the sunny summer season is prime time for that classic American pastime: the road trip.
Although increases in gas prices have made taking a road trip pricier than in the past, it remains arguably the best and most popular way to see the country. And for our cost-conscious customers, we have 10 tips on how to do a road trip on the cheap—saving money while still getting to enjoy the scenery.
1. Perform pre-trip maintenance.
Giving your car the mechanical once-over before a long drive can help you save in several ways. Basic maintenance items, such as replacing a dirty air filter or making sure the tires are properly inflated, can improve gas mileage and cut down on fuel costs. A well-maintained car will be less likely to break down on the road, saving on repair costs. And taking care of simple repairs at home can save you big bucks compared to getting stuck at an out-of-town repair shop.
2. Pack groceries.
Experiencing local cuisine at roadside restaurants might be an important part of your vacation plans. But if you want to cut costs, bringing along your own food is one of your best opportunities to save. If nothing else, buying your snacks and drinks in bulk from a grocery store costs about half as much as picking up the same things at a roadside gas station.
3. Make a list, check it twice.
We all forget to pack crucial items of clothing, toiletries, or supplies at some point in our vacationing lives. It’s usually not hard to buy replacements after you’re on the road, but that’s an unnecessary added expense. Take the time to make sure you’ve packed everything you will need before you leave home.
4. Camp out.
If you are the outdoors type, you can save considerably by staying at a campground instead of a hotel for at least part of your trip. Tent campsites with facilities usually cost $10-$20 per night, and it’s sometimes possible to find free campgrounds if you’re willing to rough it a bit.
5. Couch surf.
Another way to avoid hotel costs: couch surfing. A road trip can be a great way to reconnect with long-lost friends or relatives along your route, and some will be more than happy to let you stay the night for free.
6. Plan your route.
There’s definitely something to be said for hitting the open road with no particular destination in mind, and no plan for getting there. However, that also leads to getting lost and taking long detours that mostly just burn gas. By planning out the shortest or most efficient route to the places you want to visit, you can limit the number of miles and the amount of fuel you have to buy.
7. Shop smart for gas.
While you’re planning out a route, you can also plan out where you are going to stop for gas. Sites such as GasBuddy allow you to find the cheapest gas prices in each area, so you can fill up at the most cost-effective spots and have plenty left in the tank when you pass through a more expensive area.
8. Drive easy.
You can also save on fuel and reduce the chance of a breakdown by consciously making the switch to a more efficient driving style. Don’t floor the gas pedal to accelerate quickly, for instance, and try to coast to a stop without using heavy braking. And don’t speed: besides hurting fuel economy, nothing breaks the budget (and kills the vacation mood) quicker than a speeding ticket.
9. Avoid rush hour.
Sitting in traffic is not fun, and is a big waste of vacation time and gas. So time your departure and arrival in big cities during off-peak hours, such as 11 a.m. or 8 p.m. You can also check the route ahead for construction or road closures.
10. Drive the right car.
This is a tricky one: though some cars will obviously get better fuel mileage, they can have drawbacks when it comes to luggage space or overall comfort. If you’re bringing the whole family or carpooling with a group of friends, a single, larger vehicle might actually make more sense. But overall fuel cost is certainly something you should think about if you have more than one vehicle to choose from, or if you are considering renting a vehicle for the trip.
Of course, for a comfortable summertime road trip, you’ll also want a vehicle with a cold A/C. And that’s something we can help with. If your car’s air conditioner no longer cools like it should, A/C Pro is the fast way to get it colder than ever—and it’s definitely a way you can save money on your road trip versus taking it to a shop.
If you have any questions, feel free to contact us.