There’s nothing better than hitting the outstretched highway with a full tank of gas, a wide open horizon and the anticipation of adventure ahead. The Great American Roadtrip is a rite of passage for any recreational vehicle owner, but it isn’t without its financial challenges.
To ensure your trip doesn’t come to a screeching halt on an empty tank and bank account, here are the top money-saving tips that’ll keep you on the strait and narrow, whether your trip is a short getaway or several months long.
Map your route highlights ahead of time
Planning an economical trip requires hours of research, especially when it comes to determining the itinerary. Simplify the process with an app like Mapquest, which allows you to input up to 26 destinations for mileage information and suggested routes. Getting lost is part of the adventure, but minimizing backtracking will save you money in the long-run.
Check that your unit is operating efficiently
A full tune-up will offer peace of mind and optimize your recreational vehicle’s gas mileage for those endless outstretches of highway. Good tire pressure, a clean air filter and a quality motor oil blend will go a long way! Save a few bucks by packing extra wiper fluid.
Stock up on bulk food before leaving
Meal preparation can be limited within the confines of an RV kitchen or campground, meaning you’ll need recurring lunch and dinner options that pack a hearty punch. Plan 3-4 core weekly meals and purchase bulk ingredients accordingly before hitting the road.
Plan to be out of cell-service range
National parks and remote highways often have low cell coverage, and a short-term data plan in the United States can be extortionate. Download your entertainment, like audiobooks, podcasts and music, ahead of time and have a secondary navigation option like an offline or atlas map if your GPS drops out.
Be strategic with your gas fuel-ups
Apps like GasBuddy can save you hundreds of dollars in fuel by filtering the cheapest prices based on your location. Keep an eye on gas prices before changing states or while traveling during major US holidays, including Fourth of July and Labor Day.
Steer clear of pesky toll stations
In some cities, tolls are unavoidable, but there are often secondary routes that won’t tack on too much extra time to your trip. If you’re using a built-in GPS system or Google Maps, edit your settings to ‘avoid tolls’ for a detour slightly off the beaten track.
Invest in a national parks pass
An $80 America the Beautiful Pass is your ticket to more than 2,000 federal recreation sites, and covers both your entrance fee as well as standard day use fees. Single entry into a park can cost anywhere between $20 - $50, making the pass well worth the money if you have Death Valley, Joshua Tree, The Grand Canyon or Yosemite on your radar.
Sign up for grocery discount cards
Big chains like Safeway, Krogers and Traders Joes offer loyalty cards that add up to hefty savings if you’re planning on traveling for more than a month. Take it one step further with coupon clipping and choosing store-name brands.
Bring your own coffee
Those morning Starbucks runs add up quickly so opt for your own brew instead. Single filter pour-overs make a cafe-worthy cup, or skip the fuss with high-quality instant coffee.
Be wary of heavily touristed areas
It’s not uncommon for well-known tourist attractions to be overpriced and littered with sneaky rip-offs. Paid parking in these areas offer convenience, but free parking is often just a short walk away.
Budget all your expenses
Stay on top of your purchases and hold yourself accountable — especially if you have a predetermined budget for your trip. Download an app like Trabee Pocket, designed specifically with travelers’ needs in mind.
Photo Selection: Preston Slaughter Photography “USA Road Trip”