With gas prices at record highs and the busy summer travel season soon upon us, many van owners are looking to get creative with ways they can still enjoy all the open road has to offer without breaking the bank. And the good news is that with a little bit of extra effort, it’s possible to absorb the high gas prices – and save money on other expenses – without sacrificing your adventure experience. In this post, we’ll discuss 10 ways to save money on your road trips this summer. Check out the details below.
10 Ways to Save Money on Your Road Trip This Summer
Buy a National Parks Pass
If several of America’s National Parks are on your road trip list this summer, it makes sense to purchase a National Parks Pass rather than pay an individual park fee every time you visit one. A National Parks Pass costs $80 and provides access to the 2,000 federal recreation sites throughout the United States for a year. It’ll pay for itself on your third visit to a National Park, as individual park passes tend to cost upwards of $30 per visit. Be sure to also explore discounts and pass promotions offered to active military members, elementary students, seniors and volunteers.
Why pay for access to a campground when you can “boondock?” Boondocking is the practice of camping on public land. Also known as “dry camping,” it’s essentially camping without any water, sewer or electrical hookups. Whether it’s the desert, backcountry or even just a rest stop off a highway, sacrificing some of the creature comforts that you’d get at a campsite can also save you up to $50 in site fees per day.
Don’t Purchase Water
We know how tempting and convenient it is to buy packs of bottled water at the grocery store for your road trip adventure, but you can save money by bringing reusable water bottles and empty jugs and filling them up at drinking fountains that are commonplace at parks, campgrounds, rest stops and more. It won’t just save you money at the grocery store, but you also won’t have to worry about finding a place to recycle the plastic bottle byproduct after you’re finished.
Make Sure Your Van is Running Efficiently
You can also save money by performing preventative maintenance on your camper van to make sure that it’s running efficiently and you’re maximizing its fuel economy. In addition to an oil change and tire rotation, make sure you give your van a thorough tune-up before you hit the road this summer. Changing the air filter, ensuring your tires are properly inflated and making sure the engine is running effectively can all help improve your fuel economy and take you further between fill-ups.
Look for Free Activities, Entertainment
Summer is also festival season, and there’s a good chance that you’ll be passing through towns and cities on your adventures that will be celebrating with the community accordingly. One of the nicest things about many of these community festivals is that they’re free to attend. While food, drinks and maybe some carnival rides come with a price, there are often complimentary activities, live music and other entertainment that you can enjoy. Make sure to do some homework on the areas you’re passing through or towns around where your planned stays are to see what’s going on. Aside from community festivals, the likes of hikes, farmers’ markets, public parks and beaches often offer free entertainment.
Redeem Reward Points
Now’s the time to cash in any rewards points that you’ve earned through credit card spending, hotel stays or any other loyalty rewards program that you belong to. In addition to cash back rewards, many credit card rewards loyalty programs will allow you to cash in points for gas cards, restaurant gift cards and other things that you can put to good use on your travels. And if you’ve earned enough for a free night’s stay from a hotel loyalty program, it can make for a perfect “date night” or simply just a way to more comfortably recharge your batteries at the end of a road trip. Assess and see where you can cash in your rewards. After all, you’ve earned it!
Cook Your Food
It’s estimated that the average cost of eating out at a restaurant is $13 per person. While this might not seem like a lot, consider how many people you’re traveling with and be sure to account for any extras, like a service tip. Also, consider that the average cost to prepare a meal yourself or at home only costs about $4 per person when you factor in the cost of groceries. That’s about a $9 savings per person. While eating out is fun, think of it more as a special occasion for your adventures this summer. Instead, plan a meal list and shop for your items and ingredients. Your budget will thank you.
Set a Budget and Track Your Spending
Setting a budget is easier said than done, but if you’re serious about tracking your spending and saving money where you can, it’s necessary. So we’d suggest selecting a daily budget that you adhere to, and where you can roll over any excess dollars into subsequent days of your trip. There are plenty of mobile apps to help hold you accountable as well. Apps like TrabeePocket and Trail Wallet are ideal options if you don’t want to track everything by hand.
We get how it can be enjoyable to just take a drive and let the road take you where you’re going, but it’s not the best way to conserve money – especially in a time of high fuel prices. It’s better to route plan and select the fastest paths to your destination so you’re not logging more miles and burning through more fuel than you have to. Most GPS apps will help with route planning today and also give you the option of avoiding toll roads, which is another way you can save money if it makes sense along your journeys. There are also a few mobile apps that come in handy for getting to destinations quickly and avoiding traffic jams in the meantime. This includes apps such as Waze, RouteSavvy, SpeedyRoute and Badger Maps, among others.
Look for Cheap Gas
We already mentioned how cashing in rewards points for gas gift cards can help offset some of your road tripping expenses. It can also make sense to look for cheap gas. Apps like GasBuddy and Gas Guru track gas prices in the area you’re in and help you locate where prices are at their lowest. Remember, it might not be worth it to go a long way out of your way just to save a few bucks at the pump based on our route planning tip above, but if there’s convenient affordable gas on your route or not far off your route, the savings can add up. You might even consider bringing along some portable gas tanks to maximize any savings you’re able to stumble upon.
Road trip season is nearly here! Use these 10 tips to make your money go further on your adventures this summer.