There's so much to love about a road trip—the wind in your hair, music blasting on the radio, and so much potential for adventure. Best of all, it's a great way to enjoy a summer vacation without breaking the bank. Here are some of our top tips to maximizing your budget before you venture off on the open road.
Budget before you book
Set a budget to ensure you stay on track with your vacation spending. Try using a spreadsheet to create a budget, track expenses during the planning stages, and allocate how much to spend on accommodations, gas, food, car rentals, entertainment, etc.
The key to sticking with your budget is determining what kind of road trip you plan to take. For example, if your trip will be hiking and outdoor activities, you'll want to allocate a higher portion of your budget towards park entry fees and parking passes and cut back on your other expenses.
Set a daily limit for spending
It can be easy to splurge when you're traveling and having fun. But setting a daily road trip spending limit lets you plan each day of your route, so you don't run out of money before you make it home. Sticking to a spending limit gives you extra room for any unexpected bumps, too, like if you need to replace a tire. Plus, the more money you save, the more money you have for a follow-up trip.
Spend your money on experiences
Spending money on unforgettable experiences is a much better use of your hard-earned cash than luxury, single-use items, or souvenirs you'll just throw away someday. Consider allocating your budget for experiences, like National Park entry fees, tickets to theme parks, ski passes, etc.
One way to save more for experiences is by spending less on accommodations. Instead of spending too much money on places to stay, book with the Red Lion Hotels family of brands, with various hotels and rooms for every price point. That way, you can do more exciting things and make memories.
Use Hello Rewards Benefits
With Red Lion Hotels family of brands, you can become a Hello Rewards member to receive great deals and discounts on comfortable and convenient hotel stays along your route.
- Stay & Save—get 5% or more off your stay with Hello Rates.
- Stay longer, earn more—earn 10 Hello Bucks on each qualifying stay. Use them on your next stay, or save them for a future stay.
- Get Hello Perks, including free Premium WiFi, digital gift cards, and more.
Carry snacks and water
Instead of spending money at convenience stores or eating out at restaurants every time you're hungry, pack snacks and reusable water bottles in your car for easy access. Try portable and filling snack options like granola bars, fruit, peanut butter crackers, protein shakes, etc.
Feel free to pack your favorite perishables in a cooler, too—many Red Lion Hotels family of brands rooms have fridges and microwaves for easy storage and reheating.
Book in advance
While road trips can be spontaneous, some people prefer to find accommodation along the way. But you could get stuck with options out of your price range, or worse—a no-vacancy nightmare.
You'll stress less and get more bang for your buck if you pre-book hotels. With Red Lion Hotels family of brands, you can take advantage of seasonal discounts, packages, Members-Only offers, advance purchase rates, and more.
Plan your destinations based on your budget and stay outside of major cities
When it comes to road-tripping on a budget, don't wing it—plan your stops based on your budget. One of the top ways travelers end up overspending is if they don't have a plan, so figure out precisely what routes you can take to avoid entrance fees and tolls while maximizing your gas mileage.
Budget travelers should avoid major cities and instead explore smaller towns and attractions off-the-beaten-path. Ensure your drive will take you close to reasonably-priced accommodation and areas with ample activities and entertainment options.
Download a gas app to save money when filling up
Have you ever filled up your gas tank only to discover a cheaper station just down the street? Downloading a gas app can help you avoid spending more on gas. Some options include GasBuddy, GasGuru, and Waze.
Other excellent ways to save money on gas are:
- Avoid driving during rush hour
- Pay for your gas using a credit card that offers cashback or travel points
- Stick to your planned trip and avoid venturing off the route
- Obey the speed limit to avoid expensive tickets
- Use cruise control on uncrowded roads or keep a consistent speed
Plan your stops
Plan each stop before you hit the road—creating a detailed plan of your trip and what you'll do at each stop can help you spend less on gas and avoid aimlessly searching for activities. Do a little research beforehand to mark where you can stop along each stretch—like a general store or grocery store for more snacks, a park for a picnic, or a roadside attraction for a break from driving. Having little stops to look forward to along the way helps keep everyone in the car engaged and excited for what's next.
Bring a day's contingency fund in cash
Carry around a day's contingency fund in cash in case of emergencies, especially when it comes to unexpected banking/credit advance needs, tolls, restaurants that only accept cash, or if you accidentally lose your credit card. No matter the scenario, it's always a good idea to have cash on hand to have a little peace of mind and avoid unexpected fines while traveling.
Ready to hit the open road? Red Lion Hotel family of brands has over 900 hotels to stay along your road trip route, so you can travel comfortably and stick to your budget. Find affordable hotels at redion.com.