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How to save money on a road trip

Summer is not long off now, like many students Chris and I are off on a road-trip for a post exam treat. This year we are off to Scotland and are super excited to visit as much as possible.

Planning this trip got us thinking about how easy it is for road trip expenses to spiral out of control. It also got us thinking about what we learnt from our road trip to the USA in 2015.

Make a plan (and stick to it)
Having a rough outline of your journey will help you in finding great accommodation deals. Whilst spontaneous trips are awesome, last minute flights, hotels and car hire can get quite pricey. So it definitely pays to plan.

It is also a good idea to plan out your time and think about what attractions you want to visit, this allows you to fit more into your time and take advantage of any discounts or coupons you can find.

Compare fly/driving to direct driving 
Depending on where you are going, fly/drive might be the only feasible option. But if you have the option of either it is worth figuring out if it works out cheaper, fuel can be pretty expensive so if you car is a bit of a gas guzzler you may well find flying and hiring a cheap (efficient car) the better option. Catching the train or coach for part of the longest leg of the journey and hiring a car at the other end can big bucks. MegaBus  have journeys from as little as £1 and they offer journey across Europe, the USA and Canada. Or you might want to consider interrailing as an alternative especially if you are traveling around Europe as multi-journey passes can work out pretty cheap per journey.

If your in Europe don't rule out the use of Ferries or the channel tunnel as great ways to road trip without breaking the bank. The tunnel is from £49 per car as a return, so depending on your destination and how many people are travelling it can quite easily be a cheaper option.

When hiring a car its super important to not just pick the cheapest car, but look at its fuel consumption and whether it is suited to your driving needs (i.e the kind of terrain or number of passengers).

When we went to the USA I (although I can't drive) was in charge of hiring a car $200 fro 3 weeks was a steal and it had unlimited miles - I was sold. It was a tiny automatic Nissan Micra and it was not suited to drive 5,000 miles through some crazy altitudes (we drove through Colorado).

If you don't get the right car your likely to find yourselves not wanting to spend as much time in it (and probably spending more money in the long run).

Pack for the road
Service station food is overpriced and just not that good. It is always worth while heading to a supermarket, and grabbing some easy food for on the go. When we were road-tripping through the USA we found ourselves snacking on trail mix, and tortilla wraps with cheese and ham.

Fresh fruits such as apples and bananas make perfect road trip snacks and don't make much rubbish.

If you are driving your own car consider taking a cool box with snacks all ready for on the road.

What are your favourite snacks for road trips?

Consider hostels and campsites
Whilst its a bit cold to be camping in the spring in Scotland (at least for us southern softies), camping makes a really great affordable accommodation option with many camp sites being around £20 per night (when you divide that by a few friends it quickly becomes super cheap).

Hostels are also a great alternative, whilst the cheapest options will always be the dorms, you can often get private rooms at prices much lower than traditional hotels. YHA and SYHA are great options for those staying in the UK, and similar programmes exist worldwide.

I recently saw these brilliant air mattresses for cars, that could make sleeping in your car a viable option. Just make sure to not rack up any parking fines like Chris once did.

What is your favourite thing about road trips? Are you planning on going on one soon? How do you save money on road trips?


  1. I made the mistake of renting a compact car in Colorado. Fortunately (and also unfortunately) the rental salesman talking me into upgrading to a Cadillac at the counter (I never fall for that so I don't know why I did that time...) We definitely wouldn't have been able to make the mountain drives we did if we had stayed with compact.

  2. In the US, you can find campsites pretty cheap. When I was working for the circus, I had to drive my car from city to city every week and found that investing in a tent, air mattress, sleeping bag and basic camping supplies and paying for the campsite was so much cheaper that it only took like 2-3 nights to break even versus staying in a hotel.

  3. We've done a lot of camping to make trips more affordable. I also have learned to stop at grocery stores whenever possible rather than convenience stations! Great tips.

  4. Take your water bottle and refill it often. It's always way cheaper than buying drinks, even at grocery stores. If you can, hit rest stops instead of convenience stores or fast food joints for potty breaks...there's less temptation to spend.