Em & I have been on the road for just over a week now and we’ve been very conservative about how we spend our money. It has ended up costing more than I originally anticipated. I thought $100/day for both of us was a good estimate, but we are nudging closer to $135, which means we will have to cut our trip short. However, we are still having a great time.
I was shocked at gas prices in North Carolina (the South, as a rule, has always had cheaper gas than the North) and I had to adjust some of our other expenses to allow for the higher gas prices. (ugh)
Some tips and tricks that have helped on this trip include:
1. Look for budget hotels. Sites like HotelCoupons.com and hotels.com can help you find great prices on hotels. I always check tripadvisor.com to see what others have said about the hotel. Cheapest is not always best, but cheap does not mean bad either. We are currently staying at a Baymont Inn that is $42/night. It’s a nice room, has a small kitchenette, offers a free continental breakfast and is close to the attractions. There are cheaper hotels in the area, but this place is a great find at $42/night.
2. Consider renting a vacation home for the week through vrbo.com or homeaway.com*. Often times you can rent a home cheaper than a hotel and its a lot more comfortable, plus comes with a kitchen for saving money on food (see tip #3). We have rented homes in Hatteras, NC and in Costa Rica and have been very happy with the results.
3. Save money on food. Oy. Another big expense when traveling is eating out. I think we’ve finally perfected the art of eating while on the road. If we are staying at a hotel we try to find one that offers a continental breakfast and has a fridge and microwave. Continental breakfast isn’t always the best, but you can usually find oatmeal and a fresh fruit which is perfect. Lunch is our meal out (cheaper than eating out for dinner) and then we make a meal in the hotel at night. Sandwiches, rotisserie chicken/baked potatoes/veggies, soups, and salads are some of our favorite meals. Easy to make with just a microwave and leftovers can go in the fridge. If we rent a home, we stop at the grocery store and stock up for the week. Also check sites like restaurant.com for discount meal coupons.
4. Stay put. Admittedly, the longer you stay in one place the less you will spend on gas. When Em & I road trip we try to spend a minimum of 3 nights, and preferably a week, in one place before moving on. The long drives are what adds up. I can easily have to fill my tank 2x in a day if we are driving all day long. Yikes! That adds up fast.
5. Sign up for a cash back program like Extrabux.com* which pays you back for shopping on line. Hotels.com, Hotwire.com, and Travelocity all offer cash back when purchases are made through Extrabux.
*thank you to Jeff Nobbs of Extrabux.com for providing some budget travel tips for this post.