If you just want to escape for a vacation in your car, then here are a few cheap road trip tips to help you have a good time without blowing your budget out of the water!
You don't need to know exactly where you are going, but a general idea would help. If you are doing this cheap road trip impromptu, meaning spare of the moment, then you may just have to make a quick dash to the grocery store and the bank.
One of the biggest budget killers while trying to travel cheap, is food and lodging. Actually if you look at it even closer, it is mostly snacks. You actually can get your moneys worth out of a meal in a family rated restaurant compared to the price you will pay for convenience snacks, especially the single wrapped type. If you have a family of 5 then multiply a 5 soft drinks and 5 bags of chips, and you could have got a meal at Denny's!
To travel cheap, you just need to prioritize where you money is going. You will need to get some cash so that you are not using those "fee based" ATM machines on the road. Unless the bank you use is a popular one and you can get to a bank, you will need to make sure and have some cash on you.
Make sure your credit card is clear. Since when you stay in hotels or even motels, they will tend to attach to your credit until they know the room has passed inspection the next day. This can take up to 48 hours though. What this means, is that if you pay a hundred dollars for a room, they may run your credit card through for 250 dollars, for 48 hours then return the difference. Once you have checked out, it is usually returned, but some hotel chains wait until the room has been cleaned and inspected. Almost like a damage deposit.
Purchase as many snacks as you can from the grocery store before you leave home. Grab a cooler if they need to be kept cool. Then refill from grocery stores, stay away from convenience stores when taking cheap road trips. This can save you huge dollars. Especially if you are not familiar with the area, and you have kids screaming at you to stop at the local convenience store. If you have snacks for them in a cooler, and drinks (try not to have them drinking to much soda, or they will be climbing the walls of the car!)
Try and get ones that have a breakfast buffet included in the price. This can save huge dollars as well. If you are not a breakfast eater, there is no crime in getting a few of the items off the buffet and taking it with you. Many of the hotels offer a continental breakfast, that will include hard boiled eggs, bagels, cream cheese, fruit and more. So, you get this included in your room. So, get to the buffet and take something for later.
This way you will not have to purchase any meals or snacks until lunchtime.
When traveling cheap, one of the best things you can do with your meals is switch them around. So that you are eating your big meal at lunch. The entrees are cheaper off the lunch menu for many restaurants, then have a lighter meal at the end of the day. Or possible purchase a takeout and take it back to the hotel.
Try and stay away from desserts in the restaurant. Some of these can be just as much as the entrÃ©e. It would be actually cheaper to purchase a few extra goodies for desserts to keep in your cooler, such as chocolate puddings, or chocolate bars in bulk from the grocery store.
If you belong to associations, such as AAA or CAA or have a points card for a particular hotel, then don't forget to mention it, as you will get a discounted rate.
There are many ways to take a cheap road trip. Traveling cheap doesn't make you a "cheap person" it simply means you can then use your spending money for the sites and things you want to see and do. Snacks can create a huge hole in the budget.
If you are traveling with kids, explain to them the situation, then you can make a game out of it, as to who can save or come up with a cheaper way to do things. If the end prize on the trip is a exciting to go to, or do, then kids (especially older kids) will understand as long as you explain to them, that there is only so much money for this road trip, and if they spend it all on junk then there is not enough for the fun stuff.
A cheap road trip, can be a fun time. Some of our best vacations we had when the kids were a bit younger were on a small budget. You can travel cheap if you just try to anticipate the things you need ahead of time.