Have you ever wanted to just get in the car and explore? I recently wrapped up a bucket list including things I want to do over the next few years and one of them was a cross-country road trip.
Coincidentally, one of my friends texted me about a week after asking if I wanted to drive to Mount Rushmore with her over spring break this month.
It seemed like the perfect opportunity that I just couldn’t turn down. Here’s the thing though. I’m really motivated to pay down the rest of my non-mortgage debt this year. I’m on an aggressive payment schedule, but still want to squeeze in some fun and take a chance to explore new territory with my friend.
I decided to go on the road trip this month, but plan to make it super frugal. My hope is that you can use these tips to have a frugal spring break road trip as well if it’s on your agenda.
See Who’s Car Would Be Up For the Challenge
Depending on how far you’re going, the price of gas and wear on your car could be one of your biggest expenses. In an ideal scenario, you may want to drive your own car or a friends if they’ll be on the trip.
Renting a car can be super expensive especially if you’re going to be putting a ton of miles on it. Last year, I went to Florida with my mom and siblings and we split a rental car which came out to nearly $800 for just a week.
If you have to rent a car, check out alternative solutions like Turo which allows you to rent someone’s car for an affordable rate. Or, see if you can get a discount if you bundle the car rental with a hotel stay.
If you drive your own car, you won’t have to worry about mileage fees and extra insurance. Just make sure your car is up for the task. If you do a good job maintaining your car and have no major issues with it, you may be able to make a 10 to 15-hour road trip with no issues.
Also, make sure you have insurance that offers roadside assistance in case anything were to happen. I recently found out that the auto insurance my husband and I have includes this and we only pay $90 per month for two cars.
Split the Price of Gas Down the Middle
Don’t be shy when it comes to asking friends for gas money. Estimate the mileage from your starting point to your destination and set a budget for gas. Ask everyone who’s tagging along to chip in for gas and tolls so the burden isn’t on everyone else.
My frugal spring break road trip with my friend is about a 13-hour drive one-way and we’re taking her car so I plan to ask her about how much gas she’ll need for the trip.
I wish another person was driving with us so we could split the gas three ways, but it will still be affordable since we’re each paying half.
Bring Snacks and Meals For the Road
Since our drive will be 13 hours one way, I’m definitely going to be packing lots of food and snacks for the trip so we don’t have to stop at a restaurant. Stopping at truck stops and visitor’s centers will be a normal occurrence during our trip but I don’t want to get tempted to spend money at the restaurants there.
The snacks, fast food, and coffee shops can all be tempting and eat into your budget before you even get to your destination.
Instead, I’m going to prepare accordingly. My plan is to leave out around 5 am so we can arrive around dinner time. During the day, I plan to just eat the meals and snacks I bring in the car.
If you want to save money on food during a road trip, stock up with lots of snacks like chips, pre-popped popcorn, beef jerky, string cheese, granola bars and even fruits and veggies. You can bring a cooler or insulated bag.
Pack sandwiches for lunch or dinner and bring lots of water bottles. You can even bring your own coffee. You can make iced coffee with ice from the cooler, or prefill a thermos and warm it up in a gas station if they have a microwave.
There’s really no reason to buy food at restaurants and tourist shops during a frugal spring break road trip if you don’t want to.
Opt For Basic Lodging Arrangements
You don’t have to stay in a 5-star hotel during your road trip. In fact, you should opt for more cheaper solutions so you can spend more of your money on sight-seeing.
I’m lucky because my friend’s dad actually booked our hotel for us for this particular road trip. He has reward points and booked it for free. If you get loyalty rewards or credit card reward points, consider cashing them in to save money on your stay.
I’m going to take another road trip with family next month and I plan to fund most of it with cash back from my Citi Double Cash credit card. Throughout the year, I use the card to pay for groceries, gas, and business expenses. I get cash back whenever I make a purchase and cash back again when I pay the purchase off.
I like using this card because there is no limit on the cash back I can earn.
Another way to save money on lodging is to try Airbnb. It can be cheaper than most hotels especially if you’re staying in a smaller city. There are whole 3-bedroom houses in my area that Airbnb travelers can rent for just $45 to $50 per night. You can probably find a private room or an entire house for a reasonable rate with Airbnb.
Stop and Do Cheap Activities Along the Way
If your road trip is going to be longer, feel free to plan out brief stops where you can take advantage of free or frugal attractions. Maybe there’s a national park you can check out or a local event.
Stopping at popular destinations can make a road trip super fun and allow everyone time to stretch their legs and enjoy making new memories.
Doing this can also help you avoid driving during rush hour times when you’d otherwise be stuck in traffic doing nothing.
If you’re really adventurous, you can even bring a tent and camp out a few nights along the way. Tent camping is relatively cheap and may even be free at some places.
Your Frugal Spring Break Road Trip Can Be a Memorable Experience
I mean this is a good way. If you’ve been longing to take a road trip but are afraid it may be too costly, use these tips to keep it affordable but still enjoyable.
It doesn’t take much. Just a few friends (or loved ones), a good running car, some snacks, and a taste for adventure.
Do you have any road trips planned this year? What’s your ideal road trip destination?