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11 Road Trip Tips to Save you Money

Follow our road trip tips to save money on your next road trip and you may be surprised how inexpensive road tripping can be.

Thank you to Marathon, for sponsoring this post. Opinions are 100% our own. Read on to find out about Marathon’s MakeItCount™ Rewards program and enter our giveaway for a chance to win a $50 Marathon gift card.


There has never been a better year to take a road trip. Road trips are affordable, fun, and a great way to make memories whether you’re traveling alone, with that special someone, or with the family.  

As a former full-time RVer and someone who has logged thousands of miles of traveling across the U.S., I’ve learned a few tips over the years to make road trips affordable. 

Money-Saving Road Trip Tips 

A sea gull walks on a sandy beach on the edge of the ocean with a pier in the background.

Plan your trip

While I thrive on spontaneity, I’ve realized that when I actually take time to plan out a trip before hitting the road it often saves me money and a bit of frustration. There have been too many times that I’ve had to drive further or paid more because I didn’t make hotel or campground reservations in advance. 

A busy interstate in Florida.

Nothing ruins a road trip faster than blowing your budget on an overpriced hotel because you didn’t plan ahead and realize all the campgrounds would be full in Florida in February. I can assure you, my husband and I won’t make that mistake again.    

Planning in advance ensures: 

  1. you have your lodging secured.
  2. you pay a bit less than you will for a last-minute reservation. 
  3. that you will have a room when many establishments have limited capacity due to the pandemic.  

A well-planned out route also ensures you can plan the best driving route to get from Point A to Point B and in the process, you’ll use fuel more efficiently. 

Planning your trip also allows you to budget for your trip. I spend a lot less when I have a budget in mind. Allocate money ahead of time for lodging, fuel, food, and entertainment so you know how much you can spend and when to curb the snack purchases. 

A road passes through a wooded area with light filtering through the trees.

Avoid Toll Roads

I couldn’t believe it when my husband and I hopped on the turnpike a few years ago and spent over $80 round trip! That was an expense I did not budget for. 

Consider your route, the time you have available for your road trip and if there may be an alternative to a toll road that you can take to save money. 

Another benefit of getting off the highway is that you’ll be able to see things you wouldn’t see on the Interstate – small towns, unique attractions, etc.  

Set the Cruise Control for Better Gas Mileage

Studies show that when driving on level highways, setting the cruise control on your vehicle will generally use less fuel than if you have a heavy foot where your speed fluctuates up and down. 

Using your cruise control can also save you from an expensive speeding ticket and points on your license which can show up down the road in increased insurance premiums. 

Ask me how I learned this lesson… 

This leads me to my next tip.

Join a Fuel Rewards Program

Rewards programs are a great way to receive perks when traveling. Marathon’s FREE MakeItCount™ Rewards program saves you 5 cents off every gallon of gas, every day, which is great for road trips!

I don’t know about you, but I get happy about fuel savings because the more money I save fueling up the vehicle, the more money I’ll have to spend elsewhere.

The MakeItCount™ Rewards program saves members money on fuel AND rewards them for shopping at participating Marathon gas stations. With Marathon stations located coast to coast across the U.S., it’s easy to find one using the free app when you’re road tripping. 

I like to minimize my stops now so I count on Marathon as my one-stop-shop where we can fuel up the vehicle, take a potty break, and grab my husband’s daily dose of chocolate so he doesn’t get hangry. 

The nice thing about Marathon’s MakeItCount™ Rewards is that I save money on every gallon of gas I purchase, on the road, and at home.

Plus, if you link your Southwest Rapid Rewards® card, Wyndham Rewards® or Target account, you can earn points to redeem on airfare, hotels, and retail store purchases when buying gas and select items.

Signing up is free and easy. Visit or download the free app today.   

Utilize a Packing List so You Don’t Forget Important Items 

Packing can be stressful for many people, but if you’ve ever purchased over the counter medications or a car charger at the convenience store then you know how much an unexpected purchase can add up to. 

To avoid spending money buying an item I forgot to pack, I keep a road trip checklist of all the items I think I’ll need for the trip. In addition to clothes and shoes, I think of things like chargers, sunscreen, an atlas (yes, I’m old school like that) umbrellas or ponchos, medications, Chapstick, non-perishable food or snacks, and bottled water. 

Don’t forget to include hand sanitizer, disinfecting supplies, and masks on your list as several states now require them to be worn.  

Bring Your Own Water

To say I drink a ton of water isn’t much of a stretch. To save money, I make sure I pack plenty of water from home. We skip the small 16 oz. water bottles and buy gallon jugs that we use to refill our refillable water bottles. 

Before we set out on our road trip, I freeze a gallon or two of water and use that in place of ice in our cooler. This saves several dollars too. Our cooler is amazing and keeps things cold for 4-5 days at a time, so we don’t have to worry about the jugs thawing out too quickly and as it thaws, we have cold water to drink. 

Van Camp for the Win

My husband and I started van camping about four years ago and we’ve been hooked ever since. Van camping allows us to go further and see more than if we had the expense of a hotel room. 

 A white camper van at a campsite.

We started van camping in our minivan and now have a full-on camping van. You can car camp in most vehicles but if you’re not ready to take that step, you can always pack a tent or rent a cabin at many campgrounds across the country. 

Forget Eating Out

Yep. You read that right. I know for many people, dining out on vacation is part of the experience, but that’s not the case for me and my husband. He traveled for years with his job, often grabbing fast food on the way to and from the hotel. The last thing he wants when we travel is to eat out. 

A plate of pancakes with peaches.

I’ve learned to cook just about anything in the hotel room and travel with a portable kitchen as well as our camp stove. This allows us to buy local, save money, and normally eat healthier with a few splurges here and there.

This, along with his daily dose of chocolate that we can pick up at Marathon when we’re fueling keeps him happy.  

Seek out Free Attractions and Activities

You know I love roadside attractions. It’s no joke when I say that I have been known to plan a trip around a roadside attraction. I did that on the way to the Florida Keys and along Route 66 to see the Blue Whale. They’re often free, entertaining, and allow you to get out of the vehicle for a fun photo op and to stretch your legs. 

Whirligig park

Earlier this year, my husband and I discovered geocaching. This activity is a great way to get some steps in when we’re road tripping, and since it’s been around for 20 years, there are geocaches all around the world so you’re bound to find some on or near your road trip route.

We also enjoy disc golf which has popped up at many local and state parks across the country. We leave our disc golf set in the vehicle so we are prepared when we see one.   

Hiking has saved more than one road trip over the years when traveling as a family and that stands today too. If my husband doesn’t get out of the vehicle to stretch his legs often enough, he gets a bit hard to deal with. 

Just give the man a trail and that chocolate I mentioned before, and no one gets hurt- or annoyed. 

Seriously, hiking is an integral part of each trip we take. We plan frequent stops to local, state, and national parks. You can research your route and if you find quite a few national parks on your path, you may want to consider a National Parks Pass. 

These are just a sample of free attractions and activities you can find when road tripping. 

My husband and I are both self-employed. My work is flexible but his busy season is during the summer, so the bulk of our travel falls over the course of the winter. It works well for us because it allows us to enjoy Ohio for a snow or two and then escape somewhere a bit warmer. This often means road trips to the south or southwest. 

Traveling on shoulder season or offseason allows us to avoid crowds and save money compared to in-season pricing on lodging and some attractions. The downfall is that some things may have reduced hours or may be closed which is why it’s so important to plan ahead. 

Skip the Souvenirs

I love to look through gift shops and admit that I’ve purchased my share of t-shirts and coffee mugs over the years. But after so many trips the house seems to get a bit cramped. Now I opt to skip the souvenir purchases and take photos. After all, we travel for the memories and not for the stuff that will weigh me down later. 

If you do opt to make gift shop purchases, consider a collection like Christmas ornaments or pressed pennies. Something that will help you relive the experience over again. 

Enter to WIN a $50 Marathon Gift Card – THIS GIVEAWAY HAS ENDED

Are you ready to plan your next road trip? Enter our $50 Marathon gift card giveaway for a chance to get your next few tanks are on us. And don’t forget to sign up for the Marathon MakeItCount™ Rewards program! You’ll save 5 cents off every gallon, every day plus select purchases will help you earn points for all your favorite rewards programs. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway rules: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Giveaway is open to United States residents only. Must be 18 or older to enter. Giveaway runs from August 3, 2010 to August 31, 2020. A winner will be selected at random after the end date and notified via email. The prize is a $50 Marathon gift card that can be used at participating store locations. By submitting your email, you acknowledge that you are agreeing to potential email communications from both Travel Inspired Living and Marathon Petroleum Corporation.


Rachel Krych

Sunday 30th of August 2020

Thanks so much for the tips! I'd love to take a road trip to the New England states! I hear it's so pretty in the fall.

Amanda Whitley

Sunday 30th of August 2020

i would love to road trip to see my family in MA.

Christy Maurer

Sunday 30th of August 2020

I'd love to road trip to New England in a month or so when the leaves turn.


Sunday 30th of August 2020

I would like to roadtrip to D.C


Sunday 30th of August 2020

I would love to toad trip to Canada! Protection Status
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