Yannick and I are currently in the process of planning our big road trip around Australia. As many of you may already know, Australia is not a cheap country to travel in. Thus, we’ve done a fair bit of research and planning into making our road trip cheaper and more cost effective. Being able to save money on road trips will be hugely beneficial and will mean you can travel longer, so here are our:
Top 10 tips on how to save money on road trips
1. Drive a fuel efficient vehicle
If you’re thinking of going off road and by 4×4, then it’ll be very hard to find a car that’s great and reliable and has a low fuel consumption. However, if that’s not in your plan I highly recommend you do your research before buying or renting a vehicle. For example: An older Toyota Landcruiser (which is great if you’re going off road and we will be buying one for our ultimate Australia road trip in 2018) will only go around 15 miles a gallon. Whereas a modern station wagon/saloon car can do around 45 miles a gallon. Now that’s a pretty crazy difference if you’re wanting to save money on fuel.
2. Buy food at the supermarket and cook it yourself
Buying food will eat away your budget like crazy (no pun intended) if you eat out all the time. The best way to save money on food is to shop in supermarkets and cook it yourself, either with the equipment you have or at your campsite BBQ or communal kitchen area.
If you’re road tripping for an extended period of time, leftovers are a great way to prevent food waste and save money too.
For when you do eat out, check Groupon and other daily deal sites for restaurants offering discounts in the cities/towns you’re visiting. You also can get discounted restaurant gift certificates for local restaurants from Restaurants.com.
3. Have a rough plan
If you are going on a road trip for an extended period of time, then you should try to have somewhat of a plan of where you’re going. Whether your trip is spontaneous or not, planning out your trip, even if it’s the afternoon before you leave can be helpful because it may help you find deals (such as looking up hotels/hostels in advance and using a coupon). Also, having a plan can save you money when it comes to gas because you can plan your trip out in the most fuel efficient way and not backtrack.
4. Sleep in your car/camper or campsite
If you don’t mind roughing it, sleeping in your car/camper will save a tonne of money. Many places you can park up for free, and if not staying in a campsite will cost a lot less than overnight in a hotel/hostel. If you’re traveling solo, you might even be able to score free accommodations through the Couchsurfing site or app, which connects members with people willing to spare a couch for the night for free (although we’ve never tried).
If you’re not into camping/sleeping in your car or couch-surfing, Airbnb is a great budget option too, if you’re in towns or cities (it won’t work in the outback or rural areas). We also have a great offer for our readers: £30 (US$38) off your first Airbnb stay! If you’re unsure about using Airbnb, read our advantages on using it.
5. It may work out cheaper to buy instead of renting
In most cases, this might not be true. However, as we are currently in the stages of planning are ultimate Australian road trip, buying a 4×4 works out significantly cheaper than renting one. Not only because we can sell it after, but we will also be gone for over 6 months and Australia has expensive rental rates.
It really depends on the country you’re in. You can do the maths yourself, but of course it’s better to buy a car for 9,000 dollars and sell it after three months for 7,000 dollars, instead of paying a daily rental fee of 100 dollars (adding up to 9,000 after three months, which you won’t get back!). At the same time, you can rent a car in Spain or South Africa for 15 dollars a day. Even if you’re going around for three months, it might be better to go for a rental.
6. Save on gas/petrol
Petrol is likely to be your biggest expense when road tripping, wherever you are. There are plenty of ways to keep gas costs under control, though. For starters, you can use a free gas app such as GasBuddy to find the cheapest gas prices near you. In addition, many rewards credit cards like Virgin Velocity will earn you points towards flights, or there are other credit cards that will let you earn cash back on gas purchases.
Make sure your tires are fully inflated. Inflated tires make less friction, and less friction means a higher gas mileage.
Avoid rush hour traffic in large cities and towns. Sitting in bad traffic is a great way to waste gas (not to mention time and patience). You’ll save money and have a much more pleasant trip if you avoid heavy traffic times in big cities.
Use cruise control if you have it. Driving at a constant speed is more fuel efficient. Cruise control will also reduce the likelihood of getting a ticket or stopped by the cops (just make sure you set the cruise control to below the speed limit), saving you even more money.
7. Improve the efficiency of your car
Before and during your road trip, improving the efficiency of your car by making sure it runs smoothly and is being full serviced, will reduce any expenses that might incur during your trip. Here are some of our top tips:
- Check pressure of car tires.
- Watch the weight of your luggage – the heavier the car the more fuel it will gobble!
- Use the right oil to increase mile usage.
- Stick to the speed limit.
8. Do the FREE stuff
Wherever you are in the world, there are always free things to see and do whilst road tripping through towns, cities, beach resorts and much more, a few examples are:
- Go to a street fair, market, concert, museum or cultural event.
- Catch a magnificent sunset or sunrise.
- Take a walk or bike ride.
- Relax around the campsite.
- Free movie screenings in parks and hostels.
- Swim at the beach or lake.
- Visit National Parks.
- Go surfing.
9. Buy Travel Insurance
We highly discourage setting off on a road trip without travel insurance, especially if you’re travelling to rural areas or large cities. The expense of travel insurance is near nothing compared to the risks you’re taking if you don’t take any out. Take a look at our post: Should you buy travel insurance? For a more in-depth discussion of the topic.
We highly recommend World Nomads Travel Insurance, we never travel without them and if you ask pretty much any travel blogger or backpackers, nearly all will say they have insurance with them. Why? Because they’re seriously awesome!
10. Spend more time in fewer places
Don’t try to go too crazy and see everything, that is unless you’re road tripping for a seriously long time. But in most cases that will end in a burnout! We personally love travelling slow and taking in the surroundings and getting to know a place a little more than spending one night and hopping onto the next. By choosing to spend more time in fewer places you can save on fuel and snatch more accommodation bargains, like stay 5 nights get one free.
Do you enjoy road trips? Why or why not? How do you save money on road trips?
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