When gas prices shoot sky high, that proposed road trip suddenly looks a lot less appealing. You might fear your entire travel budget will go to filling your tank. Though gas prices remain lofty, you don’t have to let that stop you from exploring new places. There are creative ways to travel for less during these inflationary times.
Whether it involves achieving better fuel economy, tracking your spending, or finding other ways to travel, you can still afford to hit the road. Keep reading to learn how you can realize your travel dreams without emptying your wallet at the gas station.
Table of Contents
1. Track Your Spending
One way to get the most out of your travel budget is by tracking your spending. With gas prices soaring, don’t just swipe your debit card without thinking. Plan out how much you have to spend on food, gas, and activities, and stay within that budget. Some people use cash for their food budget so they can visually see what they have to spend.
If you use your debit card, look at your charges in real time to see where you’re at financially. A lot of banks offer budget tracking tools for you. You can also use different apps like Every Dollar or Mint to keep tabs on your spending.
2. Plan Your Meals
Food and fuel can be some of the biggest budget items in your travel budget. You might not be able to control the price at the pump, but you can choose your food costs. If fuel is eating into your budget, pack a cooler with cold cuts, veggies, water, and soda. Instead of dining out for every meal, you can make sandwiches for roadside picnics. Packing a cooler can also allow for healthier options than just hitting up McDonald’s at the truck stops.
When looking at your trip, plan one or two nice meals out if your budget allows. That will make your financial virtue that much sweeter when you’re enjoying a local hotspot.
3. Drive Straight Through
If you’re able and the distance isn’t too far, drive straight through and skip the cost of a halfway-point hotel. That saves you time and money, and you can enjoy your destination longer. If you have two drivers, a 10-hour road trip isn’t too arduous if you split it up. Leaving earlier in the morning allows you to get to your destination earlier in the evening, too.
Bonus: the sooner you leave in the morning, the less traffic you’ll have. With fewer people on the road, you’ll avoid traffic jams and the standstills that result. That means you’ll spend less time idling, which eats into your gas mileage.
4. Be Mindful of Your Lead Foot
Just like idling, speeding causes your fuel economy to take a hit. A recent AAA report found that your fuel economy is best at 50 mph and drops as you go faster. Accelerating rapidly and slamming on brakes also aren’t good for getting the most out of your tank.
Consistent speeds and easing in on and off the gas and brakes is better. If your car has cruise control, use that on the highway to optimize your fuel efficiency. If you don’t, strive to maintain your desired speed.
5. Don’t Turn Everything Up Full Blast
Much as in your house, having everything on at full blast in a car costs more. Running your AC at arctic temps drains more fuel. So, too, does having the radio on full blast. Some practices pull from the battery life as well, like having all your devices plugged in for charging.
The weight of your vehicle directly impacts how much gas you use. While you can’t control how much your car weighs, you can avoid carrying unnecessary weight in your vehicle. If you don’t plan on hitting the links on your trip, leave your golf bag at home. The same goes for those boxes of novels you were planning to donate to the Friend of the Library used book sale. Make a point of running this errand before you hit the highway.
6. Adjust Your Driving Habits
There are many driving habits you can adjust when your gas expenses start to creep up. If you have two vehicles, choose the more fuel-efficient one for your trip. If you intend to camp, you may well have to take the SUV to tote all your gear. But if you’re planning hotel stays, your less gas-guzzling sedan will likely get the job done.
You could also carpool if you’re vacationing with friends and family. When you reach your destination, consolidate trips to local attractions. Or you may have a vacation rental kitchen to stock. If so, aim to run all your errands at once. You don’t want to be driving 20 minutes to the grocery store several times during your stay.
7. Tune Up Your Car
Before you head out on a road trip, it’s a good idea to take your car in for a tune-up. Not only will this help avert any mid-trip breakdowns, it will also improve your gas mileage en route. So replace those failing spark plugs and ensure your tires are aligned.
Speaking of tires, see that they have the appropriate level of air pressure. This has a direct impact on how many miles per gallon you get. And when you do need fuel, skip the premium and get regular unleaded. Unless you have a high-performance car, this bit of frugality should do your vehicle no harm.
Soaring gas prices don’t have to ground you. With some forethought and planning, you can still enjoy traveling. By finding creative ways to cut costs elsewhere, you can get the most travel miles out of your budget.