How to Take A Cross Country Road Trip for Under $500
I love traveling. If I could go somewhere every single month, I would. But I'm also not independently wealthy, so I have keep myself in check. But recently, my husband was able to take a whole week off of work. That is absolutely unheard of for our family. He works really hard to provide for our family and days off just don't come as regularly as they should - let along 7 in a row!
So we knew as soon as he took those days off, that we had to go somewhere. With two young kids and living paycheck to paycheck like most people do, we just didn't have a ton of money to put into it but we still wanted something memorable for the kids.
So we decided to drive to Utah.
Crazy? Absolutely. Expensive? Nope.
If you've got the travel bug like I do and want to see how you too can get away for a small price, read on to see my tips on how to pull it off.
As I said before, my husband works a lot and some of those times includes travel. He's missed holidays and birthdays and school award ceremonies and it's time for us to reap the rewards of all of that! Since he stays at the same hotels pretty much every time he travels, we were able to use his hotel points for free places to stay. Places like Booking.com offer incentives if you book a certain amount of hotel stays through their website. You can usually get some good deals through them as well if you really like staying in hotels.
You already know I love AirBnB. AirBnB is a great option for cheap stays. We didn't have quite enough points for our entire trip's worth of hotels, so we stayed at some pretty unique places along the way. My favorite place we stayed at while on our road trip to Utah was $35 for a night and we stayed in an RV in a vineyard. The kids loved the bunk beds and the host couldn't have been nicer! She showed us all about the grape growing process, let us roam free on the property and even provided us with the items needed to make s'mores!
Breakfast is the cheapest meal of the day. We brought pop tarts, granola bars, protein shakes, and cereal with a small ice chest with milk in it. It was perfect for just grabbing something quick and getting on the road.
For the nights that we had hotel stays, we made sure to take full advantage of the continental breakfasts. We would eat whatever they had and then bring along some bananas and oranges for the drive.
Snacks were all brought with us from home. I used an Amazon box, cut off the flaps, and put a few of each kind of snack that we might want - from gummy bears to beef jerky - I wanted to make sure to get a little bit of everything.
Lunches were spent in the car or having a picnic at a roadside park. Before we left home, I packed lunch meat and cheese in the small ice chest that we brought with us as well as some sandwich thins. I like these better than regular sliced bread because they're less calories, they're thinner than regular bread, and if they get squished, it's not as big of a deal as if it had been regular bread.
Dinner is the one meal we allowed ourselves to eat out at. We had one extravagant meal while we were on our trip (because it was a silly restaurant we just HAD to eat at - but bonus - the kids got free cowboy hats with their meals!). But other than that, we tried to keep it really simple. We ordered water everywhere we went (I'm not paying $2.50 for a glass of sweet tea that literally costs pennies to make). I've also found that when it comes to ordering the kids' food, we order an adult size portion and have them split it. It's often cheaper that way and they get more food!
Before you set out on any road trip, make sure your vehicle is ready to go with wiper fluid, a fresh oil change, and the tires are in good shape. The last thing you want is an unexpected stop in the road trip plans.
A fuel efficient car is not a deal breaker, but it will definitely save you some big bucks. Gas was by far our biggest expense on our trip and it would have been cheaper if my SUV got better than 30 mph.
When you need to stop for gas, use Gas Buddy for finding the best gas prices near you. It's such a handy little tool! The only downside is that if you're in the middle of nowhere and have no cell service, it won't be any help, so you might want to fill up before you live a bigger city - there's more options there anyway.
Doing Cheap Stuff
Don't go for the tourist trap type stops. Visit those hidden gems! State and community parks, farms, and festivals are all a great way to see the sights without spending a fortune! So how do you find out what is going on and where? This part is going to take the most research time, I'm afraid, but you'll be so glad you did it. What I do is focus on one city at a time. I start by looking at the places we will be stopping at for the night and see what there is to do there. I use Yelp, Trip Advisor, and the local city websites to see what's going on. Then I look at the cities in between those nightly stays and research them the same way. We found quite a few really unique places by just doing a little research before we left.
For instance on our recent trip to Utah, I knew we were going to want to stop and stretch our legs every two hours, so I mapped out cities to stop at first. Then I looked into parks and places of interest in each city - examining them fully one at a time. Google was also a huge help in finding activities in each city, as well as looking up the "events" on their community website or Facebook page.
I hope you are able to get out there and enjoy some summer activities with your family this summer. There's a lot of sights to see out there and it doesn't have to cost a ton in order to have fun!
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