There’s no 2 ways about. Travelling on a budget can be difficult. There may even be a perception that road trips are an expensive way to travel. They certainly can be if you drive from one luxury hotel to another, eating out regularly and frittering away your hard earned cash on expensive souvenirs. Over the last 2 years we’ve learnt a few tips and tricks to make our daily budget stretch a little bit further. So here’s 11 thrifty road trip money saving tips worth considering.

Thrifty Road Trip Money Saving Tips

Eat like a local

When you arrive in a new town and fancy dining out, keep an eye out on where the locals are eating. This is where you’re likely to get not only the best quality and authentic food but also the best value; they’ll be considerably cheaper than eating in the fancy restaurant that’s full of the tourists.

Self cater

The costs of dining out soon racks up. Whether you follow tip #1 above or not, it’s still cheaper to cook for yourself. Find accommodation with access to an equipped kitchen (which isn’t difficult these days), stop off in the local food market and enjoy some home cooked food. To save even more money on your food bill and throwing food away that you just can’t carry, try to extend your stay to a few days.

Thrifty Road Trip Money Saving Tips-1

Homemade carpaccio for 4 cost 5 euros, saving at least 15 euros on restaurant prices

Ditch the hotel in favour of camping, hostels and AirBnB

There are some fantastic campsites the world over and many offer a cheaper alternative to hotels with plenty of facilities. Some even have well equipped cabins for rent. Hostels aren’t just for young backpackers either! We’ve stayed at loads of hostels that have fantastic facilities, far better than many hotels. You should look around though and take notice of the reviews. If you’re looking for a home away from home, then AirBnB might be for you. We’ve recently stayed at our first AirBnB and we weren’t disappointed!

Find free activities

Yep –free! There are a surprising number of activities you can do that will not eat into your leisure activity budget. Keep your cash for your bucket list items and get creative or just use the internet to find free activities to do in the neighbourhood. The great outdoors is always a good option, walking along a remote beach, hiking or free city walking tours. Check out offers for free admission to museums on certain days or local events taking place.

Plan ahead

Planning in advance gives you the time to hunt out great deals on accommodation, flights, transport or events. This doesn’t always serve you well. Often better deals are to be found at the last minute but by planning ahead, at least you have the option.

Sleep for free

If you’re travelling in a motorhome or campervan, you can sleep for free across the majority of the European continent! Failing that, try to get off the beaten track and do a spot of wild camping. Your savings will soon add up.

Avoid paying for your own money

Using ATMs or your credit card abroad can be a very expensive way of accessing your cash. Check out credit and debit cards that have no charges or better still, those that offer a points reward systems that you can use towards the cost of other travel related expenses. We use a debit card with zero charges and in 2 years, we’ve not had a single banking charge for accessing our cash abroad or on our transactions. Read here how we access our cash overseas without ever paying for the privilege. Do not overlook this. There are sharks out there waiting to take your holiday fund!

Time it right

If you choose to travel at the height of the season, you can expect to pay a premium. Even some weekends during an otherwise low season can be costly if there’s a major holiday or event on. Do your research first. Travelling during the low season or at the very end of a high season can save you a small fortune. You may have to compromise on weather and for some activities this doesn’t work – there’s no point heading to Andorra to ski in October when there is little to no snow. But overall costs will be slashed and if you time it right, you’re hard earned cash will go so much further.

Grab yourself free souvenirs

Most of us want to have a keepsake from our travels. As we travel long term, it isn’t practical or economical to be buying trinkets for ourselves or our family and friends. Consider keepsakes that don’t take up much space or cost anything. Photo journals are an obvious choice. I’ve been shown how to make camels from palm leaves and I pick up a stone or pebble from almost everywhere I’ve been. I have an old coffee pot I drop them into and one day I’ll use them to create something to remind me of my travels. Even if it’s just an untidy display on a shelf.

Thrifty Road Trip Money Saving Tips

Don’t pay over the odds for your fuel

It may be obvious but then again, maybe it’s not. Service stations on the motorway networks are rarely short of customers at the fuel pumps. But these people are paying more for their fuel than if they left the motorway network to top up. If you want to save on fuel, don’t fill up on the motorway. Supermarket fuel stations tend to offer the best value, depending on which country you’re in.

Travel slowly

We have the luxury of time on this trip. If we like somewhere, we can stay as long as we want, explore slowly and spread the cost. If we have a budget busting splurge, we can make up for it over the next few days by cutting back. If you have only a few weeks or months on your trip, we know it’s tempting to cram everything in and get miles and miles of tarmac under your wheels. But we think it’s worth travelling slowly; knowing more of one place than very little of many. Not only that, you’ll get bigger discounts for long term rentals on accommodation or transport. It’s a win-win.


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