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On The Road- Plan the Perfect Road Trip on a Budget

road trip on a budget

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It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey.

Road trips represent the journey of life- we try to make most of the journey while being in constant pursuit for the ultimate glory. Road trips present a new perspective to life- the joy of packing up our ride with food, family, and bringing back a ton of memories in the process. The best part about a road trip is that it requires absolutely no packing. There’s no limitation of baggage weight, no flight reservations, and you can go wherever you want.

There’s no doubt that a road trip is a thousand times more fun than any other medium, but there is a flipside. When you travel on your own, you need a car. When you have a car, you got to fill ‘er up. Let’s not ignore the moolah you’re going to spend on lip-smacking Cheetos and ice cold colas. Add your stay to all that and you are looking at a lot of expenses. This may have a psychological impact on everyone’s mind and they’ll end up forgetting the ‘fun’ factor, leading to annoying conversations, moody kids, and ultimately one boring road trip. It is very important to be frugal if you’re planning a road trip on a budget.

Pull out your phone, make a WhatsApp group, and decide on a road trip destination. Assure people that this is going to be the cheapest trip they’re ever going to go for…if they follow the road trip budget. Figure out if the journey to the destination is fun, and get ready for the road trip. Now that we’re talking about a road trip on a budget, we need to plan it out in a very efficient manner. There are FIVE major pillars of any given road trip, and we have to keep a check on each one of those to make it fun, engaging, awesome and frugal.


A road trip without proper food is like Thanksgiving without the turkey. Over 70% of people (mostly kids) have the presumption that road trip is just endless munching in the car…and throwing up later. But the money spent in arranging the never-ending supply of crisps, wafers, and grilled cheese is too much to handle. Here’s how we can save some dough on food to keep a cap on Road Trip Budget.

1. B.Y.O.L: Bring Your Own Lunch

It is rightly said that homemade food tastes best on the road. Road trips are all about enjoying the homemade delicacies on the journey. Not only does this enhance the taste and brings out the chef in you, but it saves a lot of money in the process. PB&J sandwiches and grilled cheese are all-time favorites, along with burritos, bread pizzas, and tangy lemonade.

2.  Full-time nibbles

Gas station food looks and tastes great, but it costs a lot more than it’s worth. As we are in a jolly mood, we buy a lot of stuff from gas stations for no reason at a high price. This disrupts our road trip budget, it is better to drive around the city, search for a Walmart and buy wafers, Cheetos, and ice cold colas in bulk. Try to stock up enough of munchies from local stores than gas stations.

3. Hit the local diner

Diners are great places to eat. The warmth of a homely place run by a family in a small town is a great experience. They treat you with respect and love, the kids might get free cupcakes and adults- free coffee! Diners are cheaper than any local/ national restaurant chain, and the food is healthy and fresh.

4. Stick to schedule

Road trips on budget thrive under a fixed schedule. Plan your daily pit stops for breakfast, lunch, and dinner so that you’re never too hungry. Remember- if you’re hungry you may end up spending superfluously.


With gas prices roaring like a brave lion, it’s safe to say that this is the basic expense of any road trip. Come to think of it, there’s not a lot that we can do to save money on fuel. If you’re planning a visit to the countryside it’s not like they’ll let you haggle for the fuel price. So that leaves us only a few options to cut down the fuel costs from our side.

1. Insure yourself

The annual insurance amount sucks out more money than miles covered. Why not be insured only for the miles we drive? Metromile is a car insurance charged on how much you drive, which brings the insurance costs down to pennies per mile. That is some way to cover up the fuel costs, for a start.

2. Keep fuel prices in check

The price of fuel varies from village to village. It varies from the usual $0.82/gallon in the outskirts to $0.95/gallon in the metro cities. Compare fuel prices at different locations using GasBuddy.com and try to make pit stops on gas stations with lower fuel prices.

3. Check up on your ride

If your car’s mileage sucks, or you think that your ride is not in a condition to be filled up with people and food to the brim and driven all around the country; don’t take the risk. If the AC eats up too much gas, or high-speed driving exhausts much more fuel than the usual, just rent a car from Auto Europe Car Rentals and you’re spared from the worry of fuel overuse because of car problems.

4. Use the Navigation system

If anything wastes more fuel than the usual driving, it’s unnecessary detours and clueless hunts for places. Use the GPS on your phone to map it out and try not to get lost. The best part of using a GPS is that you find new places to explore along with the added advantage of never getting lost again.


Road Trips are all about exploring one’s inner self. The beautiful scenes of nature make it all worthwhile. Honestly, you don’t really need to spend money to have fun on a road trip, which means the fun factor doesn’t really have a huge impact on the road trip budget. Let’s look at some frugal ways to have loads of fun on a road trip.

1. Mother Nature to the rescue

It is a never-ending beauty of mountains and lush forests that are nothing less than a blessing to the human eye. When you’re traveling across the highway and see flocks of sheep grazing around endless farmlands you feel it- the true essence of life. The reality is, a road trip budget doesn’t need provisions for fun.

2. Click lots of pictures.

Road trips are all about making memories and preserving them for the future. Pull out your camera phone and take pictures of anything that you find appealing (don’t be a stalker though) and copy them all to your hard drive. Pick out the group pictures and get them framed. As for the scenic pictures, sell them off on Shutterstock and Dreamstime and earn some extra money later.

3. Fun Stops

Carry a Frisbee and assemble a baseball kit consisting of a ball, glove, and a bat. Almost all the pit stops have playgrounds nearby and it feels just like old times to toss a ball around with friends and family.

4. Turn up the Radio!

The road trip code states that person on the stereo duty has a responsibility of browsing through the FM Radio frequencies. You may get to listen to some good ol’ country music, or Indian songs, or some forgotten tunes that bring back a ton of memories. Sing along your way to joyousness.


Best of road trips involve staying over at multiple places throughout their course. But when there’s a shoe-string road trip budget to cater to, we have to forget the lavish hotels and stick to stargazing camps and cheap motels.

1. The Car-bed

Sleeping in the car sounds uncomfortable alright; but if you let the back seats collapse, push backrest all the way down, and take off your shoes, you will have the immense pleasure of a good night’s sleep in the car. The best part about sleeping in the car is no accommodation costs, which is just what you want if you road trip on a budget. Don’t forget to slide the windows down, and pull up the handbrake.

2. Get a place on the go

If you are the one to search for homely comforts, rent a place wherever you go. Airbnb and VRBO are the best places to search for places to live when you’re looking for pit stops on your road trip. The duration is flexible and one can stay according to his/her own convenience.

3. Rest under the stars

There’s nothing more satisfying, romantic and mesmerizing then sleeping out in the open and staring at the star bed with your better half. It’s economical and the cool breeze is a treat to the soul. Prepare a little bonfire, carry loads of mosquito repellent lotion and cover yourself with a blanket. Watch out for the bears though.

Now that you’ve gone through the five pillars of any given road trip, you are aware of what you’re in for when you take the highway. Now pack up, load up your wagon, and get ready for an unforgettable adventure- Road Trip…On a Budget!

Related Posts: Here’s How I Travel On a Shoestring Budget, Packed your bags already? Here’s what you will be needing on your trip


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