14 Money-Saving Tips For Road Trips

14 Money-Saving Tips For Road Trips

We’re love road trips. We moved across the country together and drove from Wisconsin to California. It took a week so we could stop at all the parks and sights along the way! We’re constantly exploring the West Coast. I’ve seen most of it by driving up and down. We love road trips so much, we even drove around Europe on our honeymoon! While I haven’t road tripped 10,000 times, I like to think of myself as a road trip expert. Here’s 14 money-saving tips for road trips!

How to save money FOR a Roadtrip

Tuck money away

Putting $50 a month to a separate savings account is a tricky way I save up for a trip without actually thinking about it. Most banks allow you to automatically make recurring transactions. It can be more or less than $50 depending on your ability. I frequently forget I have this on and then check my account months later to find surprise money. It’s like finding $20 in your winter coat pocket!

Book hotels ahead of time

Even if you are camping! When you have strong wifi and plenty of time to weigh options and prices, then you’ll make the best decisions in your lodging. For an added bonus, sign up for hotel booking site emails to book trips during sales!

Sign up for the Starbucks Rewards Visa Card.

I know you buy coffee on the regular. With the card, you get instant Gold Member status and access to perks, like a faster ways to earn Stars which you can redeem for drinks or food. You can save money on your daily Starbucks run over time and thus have more money for a road trip!

Gate Bridge San Francisco sunset

Plan your route ahead of time to avoid tolls

There is nothing more frustrating than being stuck on a toll road and having to shell out $7 dollars to keep driving! UGH! When we can, we like to scout routes ahead of time to avoid toll roads.

Pay off your credit card debt first

It can be scary to tackle, but going on a road trip while you owe money isn’t responsible. You’ll just add to your interest fees and in the long run, have even more money to owe, and less money for travel. Business first, party later.

Plan your trip at the right time

So you can factor in tourist high season when everything is more expensive. You want to avoid holiday weekends for this reason as well. Planning ahead of time helps you save up! The best way to find the perfect date to travel is to research holiday weekends, events in town that may jack up hotel prices and consider local seasonal weather to nail down your dates.

How to save money ON a Roadtrip

Buy one big gallon of water

You can use it as a refill for your water bottles along the way. This is my number one hack for road trips! It sounds silly but is so smart. Smaller 20oz bottles of water are around $2 each at a gas station.

Use a gas app

Scout prices of gas ahead of time! GasBuddy is our favorite. When it’s time to fill up, I’ll check the app to see prices at upcoming stations, then guide us to the cheapest one.

Use your Starbucks Rewards Visa Card for unplanned big purchases!

You should never travel without at least one credit card for two reasons. 1) I’m a firm believer in earning Stars on every purchase, even ones far from home! 2) Things can go wrong even on the most planned of trips. From flat tires in the middle of nowhere to hotels messing up your booking, to flight changes… things happen! And those things can be pricey. Use your Starbucks Rewards Visa Card for small daily purchases and big unplanned purchases is the smart way to go so all your money won’t be sucked out of bank account if you need to tow your car in the middle of the desert. Plus, if that happens, you might as well earn some Stars!

Buy healthy snacks ahead of time

Buy some at your local grocery store and keep them in arms reach in the car during your road trip. Instead of dropping $50 on gas station snacks or fast food during your trip, buy snacks or make your own sandwiches at home for a fraction of the cost.

Making fewer stops that do more

For example, breakfast and coffee at Starbucks stores (double Stars y’all!), then filling the gas tank up across the street. Making a lot of smaller stops can waste gas, as well as your time.

Download your podcasts on wifi

We love listening to podcasts and audiobooks on roadtrips, but we always download episodes on wifi! Streaming results in really high data use and thus higher phone bills. Yikes! If you forget to download before you start the trip, just download episodes on your morning Starbucks run.

When to splurge on a road trip

Sometimes, you just can’t (or shouldn’t) avoid paying more on a trip in the name of memories or culture. 

When there’s something unique or iconic on your drive

Those dinosaurs in Palm Springs (about $10 to enter) should be on everyone’s road trip bucket list and totally worth the stop and extra money to see!

National Parks!

You can pick up a year-long National Parks Pass if you’ll be visiting more than one, but regardless if you have the pass or not, I’m always for stopping at parks. Even if it’s just for a quick drive in. On our road trip out to California, we drove through the Badlands, The Black Hills and Yellowstone. All worth the park fees,  gas and extra time.

When you can try local cuisine

I’m all for shelling out more for dinner. Whether it’s the best dang BBQ in Austin or buffalo in North Dakota, food is education as well as fuel. It’s totally worth spending extra on so you can connect better with your travels.

Woman in black and white gingham dress sitting on convertible drinking starbucks

One of the main reasons we are able to travel so much is clever use of loyalty rewards programs. When you can earn Stars or rewards for purchases you’re already making, it’s silly not to take advantage of programs. The key is finding the right program. If you’re a coffee lover and a travel addict, then the Starbucks Rewards Visa Card is a great option for you. You can learn more here.

I hope this helps you plan your next roadtrip! Remember, it’s about the journey, not the destination, right?




  1. October 29, 2018 / 1:02 pm

    I love the concept of buying nice things at a good price.

    • Kara
      November 1, 2018 / 9:06 am

      Same! Don’t we all! hehe


  2. Liz M
    October 30, 2018 / 2:06 pm

    great tips!

    • Kara
      November 1, 2018 / 9:05 am

      Thanks, Liz! I love helping people travel better and stand by all these road trip tips!


  3. November 1, 2018 / 7:55 am

    these tips are right-on!

    • Kara
      November 1, 2018 / 9:04 am

      Happy you find then helpful, Deane!