Just because your bank account doesn’t show a lot of zeroes doesn’t mean you can’t satisfy your craving to see new places. There are plenty of road trip options out there that are both amazingly fun and majorly affordable. You can find some wide-open spaces close to home or venture far away. The trick is mixing those destinations with some other money-saving tips along the way. When you’re deciding on your destination, it’s important to keep the following budget tips in mind. They’ll help you stay within your means without sacrificing all the fun of the adventure.
Camp or stay in hostels when you’re able.
More than half of your travel expenses will be eaten up by hotels.If you’re driving, this is especially economical because your place to sleep and park will be rolled into one, and campgrounds usually range from only $10-30 a night. Hostels are a great mid-range if glamping is more your style and usually these residence style dorms range from $20-50 a night.
Limit eating out.
While it’s not a lot of fun to never eat out when you’re traveling, scaling back and doing so sparingly will help trim your food budget. Grocery store shopping is much more economical than eating out every meal at a restaurant. Many hostels offer a communal kitchen to use, so check before you book. Plus, you’ll save on calories too (bonus for your waistline!).
If you can’t camp, stay with friends, family or couchsurf.
You can’t always camp everywhere you go, but there are other cheap alternatives. You can tailor your route to favor locations where friends or family can host you, or you can try to couchsurf in new cities and make new friends, which is always a brilliant experience.
Look for activities that don’t cost anything.
When you’re planning your trip, make sure you check out the free activities and exhibits that you can find along your route. You’d be surprised how many different things are out there for you to do that won’t cost a fortune or even anything at all. Gravy is one great tool to help you look up what’s happening in the cities you want to visit, and you can even download the mobile app for convenient use no matter where you are.
Now for the destinations…
You’ve got the most important budget-saving tips handy and ready to be used. Now you just have to finalize your destination. Here are five of the best out there in the USA and Europe for the money-conscious traveler.
1. The Historic Route 66
Naturally this old-time favorite made it to the top of the list. It’s only the most quintessential American road trip of them all. While it may be difficult to travel the entire 2,500-mile route today due to poor maintenance and upkeep (or complete route changes), there are still definite stops to make in St. Louis, MO and Flagstaff, AZ.
You can choose other areas to stop along the way too if you want by tracing the route on a helpful map or infographic. Decide if you only want a few days or an entire week along this iconic road, it’s up to you and your budget. For lodging along the way, try the Coconino National Forest, which is near Flagstaff. It runs about $20 a night and won’t break the bank.
2. The Vermont Beauty, Route 100
This fantastic destination in New England is one of the best places to experience the glory of a Northeast autumn or blooming spring. You can stop along the way at idyllic farms or lakes, and have your pick of spectacular camping destinations also running about $20 per night at places like the Gifford Woods State Park.
3. The PCH
An icon of the west coast, the Pacific Coast Highway 1 will bless you with coastal views that will take your breath away. You’ll spend a bit more on campsites out here (around $40 per night), but the incredible scenery will make up for it. It is an absolute ‘must-see’ if you are the road tripping kind of individual.
4. Discover Portugal
If you’re more of mind to find a cheap European option, Portugal may be your best bet. More affordable than most Western Europe destinations, your biggest expense will be your plane ticket (which you can save on if you travel during shoulder season). Allow 10-14 days for a proper road trip in this amazing country, and prepare yourself for fantastic sites, all of which you can plan around varying itineraries depending on what you’re looking for (i.e. beaches, wine, mountains etc.). The cost of beer is significantly cheaper than in the States, even in big cities, so if you’re looking for a party this is the destination for you.
5. Oregon’s Columbia River Highway
Starting just outside of Portland, this is a nature lover’s paradise. You’ll experience waterfalls, beautiful mountains and bridges as you follow the Columbia River Gorge. It’s a shorter road trip and a best choice for the tiniest travel budget. You can do all of it – even taking your time – with just one overnight stay that’ll run you around $25 at the Lewis and Clark RV Park and Campground.
Don’t let your student or recent-grad budget hold you back from an amazing road trip this summer. So pack up the car with your BFFs, a bunch of snacks and your favorite tunes and get ready to hit the road!