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How to save money on road trip costs

by Bethany

We moved! We hit the road from Vancouver, Washington to Phoenix, Arizona right after Christmas. While flying may be easier than driving, we needed to get our cars, dog, and two cats down to Arizona. This made hitting the road our main option for travel. We were able to save on road trip costs by following the tips below.

Avoid road trip costs by planning ahead for gas or charging stations

If you drive a hybrid or electric car, road trips are cheaper than ever. This is especially true if you map out where you’re going to charge or gas up. Last year, Charles purchased a Tesla Model 3 and received two years of free supercharging. On the trip down, we made sure to map out the route using only free charging stations to keep our costs low. When we stopped to charge, we would also gas up the Prius if needed. It has a range of 400 miles per tank of gas so this wasn’t always needed. We looked for the nearest station with reasonable prices.

Having cars that don’t use much gas and free electric cut the road trip costs big time.

Bring your own snacks

We all know a road trip isn’t complete without snacks. Each car was equipped with a large sack of snacks. Our family put together some homemade trail mix and cookies for us to take. By bringing snacks we saved a ton on road trip costs and avoided stopping for convenience foods.

Stay with family or in AirBnB’s

We are lucky enough to have family in California who welcomed us into their home. Our first night of travel on the road was free, plus they made us a delicious dinner and breakfast, saving us even more money. While this isn’t something everyone can rely on, it was a way for us to save money. More importantly, we were able to see family and visit in the middle of the road trip.

In addition to staying with family, we booked an AirBnB for our second night of travel. This was in part because we needed a place that would allow our animals. But also because we could find a place right off the highway on our route for a decent price.

Bring a water bottle

Bringing a water bottle for both ourselves and the animals was a lifesaver. It meant we were not buying disposable drinks during the day. I have a large growler sized canteen I filled for the animals each morning. We each had our own bottles we could fill throughout the day on our stops.

Admission: We did purchase Starbucks on the trip, so it isn’t foolproof. But as a huge water drinker, the water bottle saved us money on the way.

Pack for every possibility

Typically we pack very minimally. However, when hitting the road with animals and being in temporary housing for 3 months we decided to pack for every possibility. Since we owned these items already, it made sense to bring them with us instead of packing them in the storage cube for three months.

Some of the extras were:

  • first aid kit
  • animal pharmacy
  • extra food
  • wipes and cleaning supplies
  • flat tire supplies
  • our own home office paired down into two boxes

We packed these things away in the corners of the car and saved money on the road trip.

Use public facilities and group your stops

Rest areas are a great way to save money on a road trip. I am a huge fan of these public facilities.

That said, we didn’t end up using many of these on this trip. That’s because we grouped our stops. Bathroom, meal, and gas/charging were all done in one stop. The Tesla mapped out where these stops were for the nearest charging stations and once the car was plugged in we planned out where we would go for the rest. We grabbed cheap food for meals from Taco Bell or a grocery store. (Vegan fast food is actually easier to find than I thought!)

Even when we arrived in Arizona we continued to find public facilities to use. For example, we needed to print some documents and headed to the library which costs $0.20 a print instead of the UPS store which charged a minimum fee of $10 and the prices went up from there. You can save money by being savvy about your stops and using the facilities available for free.

Have an incredible sibling

Ok, I know this isn’t something you can order off Amazon…but my brother and his wife volunteered without any prompting to drive down with us so we could all take turns at the wheel. By having them on the road trip we were able to make it through 12-13 hour driving days (due to road closures). If not for them, we would have stopped for the night and spent more money on lodging.

Saving money wasn’t the only perk of extra drivers to prevent fatigue. The best part was spending time together and touring Arizona for a few days after we arrived. Their help was appreciated and they are truly the best.

road trip costs

Being new to the state of Arizona, we know that several more road trips to surrounding areas are in our future. Please share how you saved to road trip costs!

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