5 Tips for a Frugal (and Fun) Summer Road Trip

| May 10, 2013
M40 motorway in England

M40 motorway in England (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Once upon a time, a summer road trip was the affordable and adventurous way to travel. Nowadays, there’s still plenty of adventure to be found on the open road, but it’s a whole lot more expensive than it used to be.

Navigating a summer road trip that’s both fun and affordable is tricky, but hardly impossible. Here are five savvy tips to help you save on your summer road trip…

1.)    Invite Your Friends

The more the merrier, right? Packing four or five into a car might not be the most comfortable way to get from Point A to Point B, but it’s definitely the most cost-effective. We’re no mathematicians, but it’s easy to calculate how much you can save on a tank of gas split four ways instead of two. Plus, rolling deep on your summer road trip usually results in more fun, so pack ’em in tight and enjoy the camaraderie (and the savings).

2.)    Take Advantage of Cash Back Cards

If you own a cash back credit card or are thinking of applying for one, you might be surprised to learn that your card offers bonus cash back for gas and grocery purchases. Credit cards like the Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express offer bonus bang for your buck on gas and groceries, and beginning July 1st Discover it® cardholders can earn 5 percent cash back on up to $1,500 in Quarter 3 purchases at gas stations. Although the 5% cash back category at the time of this post was gas stations, now through March it is Restaurants and Movies.

Any money saved at the pump is welcome – use your cash back card to save anywhere from 1 to 5 percent or more on the road this summer.

*although the 5% cash back category at the time of this post was gas stations, the cash back category has since changed.

3.)    Roll Down the Windows

Speaking of gas prices, you probably know that using your air conditioning – while at times necessary – can also help to shorten the life of that tank of gas. If you can stand the heat even for brief periods of time, kill the AC and roll down all four windows to get the circulation going. A little fresh air never hurts – even on the open road.

(Note: Southern road trippers need not listen to the above tip. It’s WAY too hot go without air conditioning down there. Seriously – don’t kill yourself over a few bucks, and ALWAYS keep water in the car.)

4.)    Keep the Snacks Aplenty and the Fast Food Minimal

It’s inevitable that you’re going to hit at least one fast food joint on your summer road trip. But your wallet and, let’s face it, your calorie-intake will probably benefit from more snacking and less fast food binging.

Not only are groceries cheaper (and often healthier), but there are a number of cash back cards available that reward bonus cash back for grocery purchases. So drive past Arby’s and put together your own sandwich, keep the small snacks readily available (nuts, sunflower seeds, etc.) and keep it healthy – and frugal – on your upcoming summer road trip. Last but not least…

5.)    Pack the Tent

What’s a summer road trip without a taste of the great outdoors? Pack your camping gear and save considerably on accommodations while enjoying the little things that make a summer vacation worth taking: bonfires, star-gazing and reminiscing outdoors about the “good ole’ days” which, by the way, you’re living right now!

The average middle-of-nowhere hotel costs between $50 and $75 per room; a campsite, meanwhile, usually starts under $30. Rough it up a little on your summer excursion and make some memories with the ones that matter most, all the while saving big on your summer fun.

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Category: Vacation

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