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Enjoy taking cheap road trips? I certainly do! It’s amazing how far $100 or $500 will take you on the road.
I love a new computer-generated map I found that tells me how far I can get on just $50 of gas.
But, I’ll talk more about that in just a little bit.
Why Road Trips ROCK!
When it comes to traveling, you won’t find me at an airport — you’ll see me pumping gas at my nearest Wawa and heading off for the open road.
No matter if gas is $1.50 a gallon or $3.50 a gallon, there’s nothing more enjoyable to me than hopping in my car and letting my wheels take me where I want to go.
Road trips do take longer than traveling to the destination by air, but I think half of the fun in traveling isn’t just arriving at the “end point” but enjoying the journey along the way.
For example, when I had a business trip from Florida to the Houston area, I passed on the 2-hour flight and took a 15-hour road trip that included sightseeing in rustic North Florida and jubilant New Orleans.
I even found out (the fun way) that McDonald’s sells grits in Louisiana — who would’ve thunk?
On a trek to New York City from the Sunshine State, I got to enjoy:
- The incredible scenery of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel complex
- Pleasant Ocean City, Maryland
- Gorgeous Rehoboth Beach, Delaware
- A delicious cheesesteak in Philadelphia
- Took a free tour of the United States Mint
See why I love taking road trips?
It’s even better when taking cheap road trips, because I can get to still see and do a lot of neat things without having to spend my life savings.
See How Far Can You Go For $50 (Or Less)
Of course, gallivanting along the nation’s highways and byways can nickel and dime you.
Before you know it, you’ve spent $200 or $400 on gas, $100 a night (or more) at hotels, and ate through your wallet or purse at all the fast-food chains or colorful dives you can find along the way.
But how far can you go on just $50 for gas? I found this neat tool on a cost information website called HowMuch.Net.
This image to the right, a screen capture from HowMuch.Net, shows you how far you can get from Philadelphia (1 way) for $10, $20, $30, $40, or $50 in gas (the darker the green, the higher the gas amount to drive there from Philly).
For $50 in gas, you can drive from the City of Brotherly Love to Canada, Indiana, or even parts of Tennessee!
It’s amazing how far $50 of gas can take you — especially when gas is under $2 a gallon and you’re driving a car that can get 25 or 30 miles per gallon on the highway.
Drive a hybrid car or another type of fuel-efficient vehicle, and $50 will take you much farther still.
If you look at how far $50 will take you on the road, you’ll see that you can easily go hundreds of miles on just 1 or 2 tanks of gas. Think of all the things you could see and do!
Just remember to calculate (at least) $50 more to get back home — unless you’re idea of fun is a 1-way trip.
My 5 Best Tips For Taking Cheap Road Trips
If you’re trying to make you road trip as cheap as possible — outside of thumbing a ride from Point A to Point B, that is — these are my best travel tips:
#1 — Pack your own snacks.
Want to eat away at the cost of dining? Pack your own snacks while on the road and you could save a bundle!
Why spend $7 on a fast-food meal when you can enjoy cooler-chilled sandwiches, snacks, and drinks right from your own kitchen for a fraction of that price?
If you enjoy dining out while you’re on the road, why not spend money on just a single meal per day — which allows you to save money without missing the chance to indulge on your favorite road trip food?
#2 — Use credit card reward points.
Most credit cards offer their users points for purchases.
These points can help you earn gas cards, free nights at hotels, and other goodies that will help you save money while you’re taking road trips.
I’ve used my credit card rewards for everything from snacks to gas and even souvenirs — all savings that help make my cheap road trips even cheaper!
#3 — Join a travel club for discounts.
I’m a member of the American Automobile Association (AAA). My AAA membership helps me save money on everything from meals on the go to nights at hotels.
5% savings here, 10% off there, and before I know it, my savings turn into real cash!
Oh, and if I get stuck somewhere? I’ve got roadside help on the way for free with my AAA card.
No, I’m not in anyway being compensated for trumpeting all of the good things AAA has done for me. But I do love the great benefits I enjoy being a AAA member.
Ask around — there are many other travel organizations like AAA, too. You’ll surely find an automobile club that suits your needs and offers the kinds of discounts that you’re likely to use most often.
#4 — Buy CityPASS tickets.
If you’re planning on staying in one of the big U.S. cities for a couple days, you might want to check out what attractions that town’s CityPASS can get you into.
CityPASS is a multi-admission attraction pass that can help you save up to 50% off the prices of individual admission tickets at popular attractions.
For example, the Philadelphia CityPASS currently covers the following attractions:
- The Franklin Institute
- Big Bus Company and Philadelphia Trolley Works
- One Liberty Observation Deck
- Adventure Aquarium or Philadelphia Zoo
To buy adult admission tickets for each of those attractions individually would cost $107.79. But an adult Philadelphia CityPASS that covers those tourist landmarks costs $59 — a savings of 45%.
Not too shabby, huh?
#5 — Travel during the tourist off-season.
Ever notice how theme parks, hotels, and highways near big cities seem much busier during the summer and major holidays?
That’s “peak season.” In other words, those are the busiest times of the year for tourist traffic.
That’s also when just about everything from nightly rates at hotels to theme park tickets to restaurant meals in touristy places cost the most.
The period of time that is not peak-season is generally called the “off season,” when tourist attractions, hotels, and other places are looking for any customers they can get.
To help increase foot traffic during the off season, such places will usually offer admission and travel discounts to help get you in the door.
It’s a great time to take cheap road trips and save an extra bit of money.
The off season varies based on where you’re going. For example, the off season in theme park mecca Orlando, Florida, is generally the first 5 weeks following Labor Day.
But 1,200 miles up the street in New England during mid-to-late September — that’s peak season for that part of the country, because leaf peepers from all over the world are converging on places like New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine to check out the colorful fall foliage.
In other words, do your research before you hit the road and plan your trip for the time of year when lodging, attractions, and other expenses will be at a minimum along your travel route and at your destination.
More Cheap Road Trip Ideas
- How To Plan Cheap Road Trips With A Lot Of Stops
- 6 Tips For An Affordable Road Trip
- How Family Road Trips Can Be Done On The Cheap
- 6 Cheap & Fun Road Trip Ideas
- 8 Budget Tips For A Cross-Country Road Trip
- 21 Ways To Travel America For Cheap
I’m a Florida native, a roller coaster junkie, and a frequent traveler. (Long road trips are my favorite.) Born and raised in Tampa, I grew up visiting Busch Gardens Tampa Bay. I authored the book Busch Gardens Tampa Bay: Images of Modern America, which details the colorful history of the Busch Gardens theme park. As a local historian, I’ve also written about other popular landmarks and attractions for a variety of publications. Here, on this Travel Guide, I like sharing little-known facts and fun stuff about all the places I’ve been — so you will have a good idea of what those places are like and what you should know before you go. I especially enjoy helping others plan fun trips… on a budget!