How to Take an Inexpensive Road Trip

I just picked up a copy of Road Trip USA: Cross-Country Adventures on America’s Two-Lane Highways by Jamie Jensen from my local library because I wanted to plan an inexpensive road trip this year. The book’s itineraries, albeit too rich for my budget-loving blood, got me to thinking about ways you can cut costs and still see some of America’s most beautiful attractions, landscapes, and cities.

Here’s how you can take an inexpensive road trip without blowing a tire or your budget:

  • Map your course. Use MapQuest or Google Maps to plan your itinerary. Plan to stay overnight in state parks or budget accommodations. You can find log cabins, treehouses, and even yurts to rent by going to http://www.airbnb.com/.
  • Stay off the interstate. Avoid paying tolls and take a more scenic route to your location. You miss a lot when you travel down the busy interstate. For a list of wacky roadside attractions, visit http://www.roadsideamerica.com/.
  • Pack your lunch. Shop the local markets and brownbag your lunch when you travel. Not only will you save a ton of money, you’ll also be able reduce calories by selecting healthy, low-fat options. Fabulous Travel has a great article on its site titled, How to Make Travel Picnic Packs for Suitcase or Backpack. Here’s where you’ll find it: http://www.fabuloustravel.com/brown-baglunches/article/412/21505.
  • Visit free attractions and festivals. Make the Chamber of Commerce in the cities that you are visiting your friend. They can provide you with information and literature about upcoming events and festivals. You can also check out websites like 2Camels and Festivals.com. They have up-to-date listings of things to do in all the major cities in the United States.
  • Skip the souvenirs and take pictures instead. Beautiful pictures can be taken and turned into customized postcards easily. Carry along some heavy cardstock, a glue stick, and a sharpie. Stop by a drugstore or retailer and have photos printed before heading to your next destination. Send your handmade postcards to friends and make sure to keep a few for yourself. You can record details on the back to help remind you of your trip.

The beauty of a road trip is that you call the shots. You determine where you go, how long you stay, and what types of things you see and experience along the way. Although guidebooks are great for introducing to different cities and attractions, no one knows what piques your interests better than you do. With very little money, you too, can travel to some of the most exciting parts of the country easily.

 


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About the Author: Charissa Arsaoui is a freelance writer with a love for thrift. She contributes to many different personal finance blogs.

7 comments
RecardoMandy
RecardoMandy

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JeffreyCrews
JeffreyCrews

Local roads can be a place. However, local road could also mean less direct routes (more gas). 

frugalportland
frugalportland

love love love road trips. taking one this summer!

Freedom 48
Freedom 48

Love road trips.  So often the drive in itself makes for a fun and adventurous trip.  I remember taking a road trip with my parents when I was 8 years old.  We saw a big beautiful rainbow - and decided to follow the rainbow (to look for the pot of gold!).  It was nothing but a 20min detour - but it's one of the best, most fun childhood memories I have.  Road trips are awesome =)

Kelly1CL
Kelly1CL

This summer my husband and I took a 10-day road trip through Oregon (put 1400 miles on the rental car). We packed a cooler with Tillamook cheese and salami and drinks and such so we could save money on lunches and snacks. Turns out that if we hadn't done that, we would frequently have been very hungry. We often found ourselves in the middle of some beautiful park at lunch time, no restaurants or stores in sight. But we'd just pull over, pull out our cooler and have a lovely picnic lunch. Those were some of our favorite meals!

timelessfinance
timelessfinance

I must admit that I peversely LOVE interstates and reststops. I'm Cdn, so our highways suck and you can't buy Mountain Dew Code Red along the way.

Jeremy Vohwinkle
Jeremy Vohwinkle moderator

@timelessfinance I used to spend a bit of time on the Ontario highways, but that was many years ago so I can't compare that to today. But these days, I really enjoy the slower pace you can find on rural highways instead of the major interstates. Not a fast way to travel by any means, but there is so much history and amazing sights to be seen off the beaten path.

timelessfinance
timelessfinance

 @Jeremy Vohwinkle

Good points. Country highways in Ontario are largely 80km/h, so if you go 10km/h over (not that I ever would), you're hitting 90km/h which is the optimal speed for fuel efficiency in most vehicles. The divided interstate-type highways are 100km/h, so at an average speed of 110, you're really wasting fuel on an Ontario highway. Nevertheless, you can't buy Mountain Dew Code Red because in Canada, cola is the only pop that can have caffeine :( (energy drinks are classified as 'natural health products')

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