6 Savvy Travel Tips For Driving Across Country On a Budget
I’m on the road again. Finished my travel nursing contract in New Mexico and am headed back home for two weeks of relaxation before setting off on my European adventure! With that adventure in mind, I’m making this cross country drive as cheaply as possible to save money for the big trip! So today I’ll be sharing with you my various tips and tricks for driving across the country on a budget.
Pack Your Food
Avoid restaurants and fast food like the plague! Even a $8 meal at your fast food joint of choice is going to add up quickly if you multiply that by three times a day over 3-7 days. Bring a cooler with you and load up on cold cuts or do as I did and make some shredded crock pot chicken before leaving and bring that along to make sandwiches. Throw in some quality cheese and a tasty spread or two of your choice to liven those sandwiches up a bit and you are good to go!
Buy Gas at Truck Stops
For some reason, gas is significantly cheaper at truck stops. Not sure if it’s because they may purchase it in larger quantities or what but as I’ve been driving a lot I have frequently noticed that truck stops offer cheaper gas than a smaller station right down the street. Fill up where you find those good deals, as you will be filling up frequently!
Avoid Putting Anything On Top of Your Vehicle
Believe me, I know how hard it can be to fit all of your belongings in the back seat and trunk of your car. But if at all possible, never invest in one of those carriers that goes on top of the car. They add significantly to the wind resistance of your vehicle and you will be surprised at how much less gas efficient your car will be. You want to be a lean mean gas efficient machine, not a big bulky beast on the road!
Camping isn’t for everyone… but if you enjoy it and are a bit on the outdoorsy side camp as you drive across country. Paying a small $10 per night fee at a camp ground is so much more affordable than even the super budget motels. Certain National Parks will also allow you to tent camp for free or just fr the entrance fee to the park. Even if you don’t have the necessary equipment, buying a tent and a sleeping bag will still cost you less than 3 or more nights in a motel.
Stay in a Hostel
Do you absolutely need a bed to sleep at night? Once you have your route mapped out, look into the possibility of staying at a Hostel along your chosen path. While Hostels in the US are much less common than in Europe, you can still find a couple in most major metropolitan areas and big tourist destinations. While you may need to sacrifice some privacy by choosing a dorm stile room if a private room is not available, they are very affordable. You will have a bed to sleep on and often get a free breakfast.
Keep On Driving
While this is likely the least comfortable of solutions, if you’re up to it, just keep on driving. Having a fellow traveler to switch off with and have one person drive while the other sleeps is obviously the best option in this scenario. But if you’re like me and may have a bit of a screwy sleep cycle from working night shifts… just load up on energy drinks and stay out on the open road. This past trip from NM to D.C. I drove 30 hours with just a 3 hour nap, in a hotel parking lot to tide me over. If I’m being honest it probably wasn’t entirely safe to drive so much on minimal sleep but I just didn’t feel tired. And when I did, I pulled over and slept for a while. Listening to a good book on tape or some good podcasts definitely helps in this area. Always air on the side of caution though, I wouldn’t advise this unless your body is strange like mine and accustomed to being up at all hours of the night and operating well on minimal sleep. Always err on the side of caution, and if your tired, pull over and rest.