So a few weeks ago my boyfriend and I returned from a 10-ish hour road trip to Omaha from Green Bay to celebrate the college graduation of his younger sister. Me, the avid list-maker that I am budgeted out every last penny, from food, gas, hotel costs, drinks, gift buying, and shopping allowances. It was a small road trip but still, I was on a tight budget having just broken my hand and having to pay out-of-pocket for doctor bills, I was left a little strapped. I’ll give you a few pointers on how we saved money, and still had a great trip.
- Plan to eat breakfast in the hotel, (free waffles!) and if your hotel doesn’t offer breakfast, hit a grocery store for bagels, cream cheese, orange juice, and make instant coffee in your room. Much cheaper than going out every morning.
- For dinner think about the grocery store option too. Delis in grocery stores are much cheaper than fancy restaurants. If there’s a place you’ve been dying to try, by all means, go get some grub! Otherwise, great ways to save are always delis (fruit salad, mashed potatoes, taco dip, AND desert), Deli Sandwiches, GOOD fast food like Arby’s (Market Fresh!), Subway, Jimmy Johns, Taco Bell (Fresco Menu and non alcoholic Margaritas) and a list of others, depending on where you are going. Check out my next tip about using Foursquare to find a bar, same works for finding a restaurant.
- At night we found out where there were drink specials using an app on our phones called Foursquare. Foursquare is available for the iPhone and Android Phones. You “check in” to places, and get specials at some bars that participate with the app, like free shots, 2 for one, or a plain old free drink. No $9 martinis for me, just a $2 Tall Boy of PBR. You can also see which bars in your surrounding area have drink specials just by being on FourSquare, see tips left from other users (try the home-brewed Stout!) ,and you can see who is “checked in” at other bars too.
- Google the area you are staying in, and their Night Life. You should be able to find cheap shows to see, bars to hang out at, and best of all, Karaoke.
- Think about what the important things are to spend money on, and save on other things. Are you a souvenir collector? Do you NEED that snow globe with the city and state for which you visited? Then set aside money for that, but don’t get what you don’t need, or can’t fit in your vehicle.
- When thinking of shopping: Budget that money in last. You need gas, a place to sleep, and food, but do you NEED to shop? Is it something you can get at home? Think of necessities, then think of fun money. You can still have plenty of fun for low dough.
- Shop around for hotels before you book. This is a real “duh” thing, but sometimes people just book what’s near their destination. Go on websites like Cheaptickets.com and Hotels.com and look for a good deal. So what if you have to drive 20 extra minutes, you just saved like $40 a night on a hotel. And avoid kitschy Bed and Breakfast’s. They are way more money than hotels.
- Look around for gas. There are apps for smartphones like “GasBuddy” or AAA’s “TripTik” that will tell you where to find cheap gas. Those pennies add up when you are driving long distance.
- Stock up on snacks. Go to a grocery store and get peanut butter, crackers, bottles of juice, granola bars and even some candy (preferably not something that will melt in a hot car) and keep it in the front seat area. Then you have something to munch on instead of paying gas station prices for the same item.
- Bring a buddy! Everything seems cheaper when you split the cost of things.
- Make sure you have road side assistance, it’s like $2 a month or so to add it to most phone plans and includes unlocking a locked up car, a tow, and gas. Or get AAA for all of the same benefits, plus you’ll save on hotel rooms.
- Can you camp out instead of staying in a hotel? That may be an option for you outdoorsy people.
- I’d give ideas on how to have fun for low money, but it’s different where ever you go. Are you camping? Visiting family? Following a band around the country? Taking a random adventure? It all varies on how your money will be spent, and what activities will be taking place.
- Get the car ready by checking tire pressure, fluid levels and make sure things like the wiper blades work.
- Make a list of all you need, check it twice, and make sure you’ve packed! You don’t want to have to get MORE toothpaste and deodorant once you hit the road. And load up your MP3 player so you have plenty of tunes to listen to. And don’t forget those chargers for electronics. You don’t want a dead laptop, or to have to shell out $30 to get another charger…
I hope you have a safe and fun road trip, budget wisely, and save money while still having an amazing time! Take lots of pictures! Happy Trails!