By Chris Dato • September 04, 2014
Road trips are a great way to get away from home without breaking the bank. They give you a chance to see some of the travel worthy places just outside your own backyard while spending quality time with family or friends, all on a budget. As a frequent road trip traveler, I wanted to share some tips I have picked up to make sure your next road trip is smooth ride, and not a ride from hell.
The most obvious cost that comes to mind with a road trip is fuel, so be strategic about where you fill up. Use the free app Gasbuddy to find the cheapest gas station in your area, and make sure you are getting the best deal. Being spontaneous is another essential element to a good road trip, so don’t be afraid to pull off the highway and fill up at an exit that catches your eye. No need to wait until the needle is pointing at E.
Yeah, it sounds obvious, but having a well packed cooler can make or break an adventure on the open highway. This $99 Wagan Thermo-fridge/Warmer from Target has all of the creature comforts you could want in a cooler, including a power unit that plugs into the car’s cigarette lighter, eliminating the need for ice! What you bring can have a big impact too. Some snacks are just essential: bags of chips, beef jerky, the 10 lbs bag of Swedish Fish from Costco. It is also a good idea to consider packing some healthier options, such as fresh fruit. Grapes and apples are excellent fruits for the road, plus they are driver friendly since you can eat them with one hand. Having water and snacks readily available to you in the car will add up to big saving when life on the road leaves you famished.
I’m not just talking to you driver, although that would be a sound piece of advice. The best part of a road trip is often not the intended final destination, but the unexpected sights you come across on the way. Keep this in mind as you pass billboards for local attractions you might not have heard of. If you read something that sounds interesting, do a little research on your phone to see if there is anything worth pulling over for. Some factories and assembly plants offer free or inexpensive tours though the facility, such as the Taylor Guitar factory in El Cajon, CA.
These easy tips should help get your next trip rolling. They key thing to remember is the adventurous spirit of a road trip. Wrong turns will be made, some things will not go according to plan, and you will inevitably be forced to use some less than five star restrooms, but those are the parts of the story that will make it worth telling. Remember, the journey is more important than the destination.
For more useful tips about road trip essentials, check out this advice from our Tip Jar.
Chris Dato A Southern California kid born and raised, Chris is happiest with sunglasses on his face and sand under his back. Although a self-proclaimed master money saver, he prefers the term 'responsibly frugal' to 'cheap.'