Driving Cross Country– Whether you’re off to a holiday destination on the other side of the country, or you’re heading out on a once in a lifetime epic road trip, cross-country driving can end up being a pretty expensive way to travel.
A little bit of planning and organization can go a long way to making it a more cost-effective, fun experience. Read our blog post on how to save some money while driving cross country.
#1 PLAN OUT YOUR ROUTE
Of course, you can just stick your end destination into your trusty satnav when you get in the car and it should get you there, eventually. Or you might even want to use a road map for that real sense of adventure. But either way, planning your route ahead of time is pretty much guaranteed to find you a better, cheaper route.
Driving without a real sense of where you’re going might be some of the appeals of a road trip, but it’s all too easy to get lost on country backroads and spend several hours driving in loops. By researching a route ahead of time, you can check out whether there are any road works or closures planned that are going to slow you down or the best routes for avoiding traffic hotspots around cities and towns.
Also take into consideration any holidays, festivals or other events that might increase the traffic on the roads and because you delay. The last thing you want to do on your big road trip is to sit in a traffic jam for hours on end.
Planning will also help you to avoid any tolls. Sometimes a toll is worth paying if it guarantees you a much quicker route, but you should always check just how much time it will really save you.
#2 RESEARCH YOUR STOPS
Like planning out your route, it’s also worth figuring out where and when you want to stop off for some site-seeing along the way. Research which places are worth stopping at and any activities or tourist attractions you really want to visit so that you can budget for these. It will also help you avoid getting drawn into any tourist traps on the road, which can be overpriced and not a particularly unique experience.
Better yet, look up free things to do in any places you’re going to stop at. Cities and towns may offer ‘free’ (donation-based) walking tours to show you all the sites, or local museums can give you a good insight into a place’s history.
#3 FILLING UP YOUR CAR
Part of the planning process for any long-distance driving should involve working out how you’re going to fill up with fuel. Google maps can help you to figure out where petrol stations are going to be ahead of time. And it’s worth remembering that prices might be lower away from bigger, main roads, so look at planning small detours to your route.
If you’re making frequent long-distance drives, then a fuel card could be a good way of ensuring that your costs are manageable. As with everything else, it’s best to do some research to find the right one for your needs – iCompario’s Fuel Genie review outlines just one example of a fuel card that can be used to set a limit for fuel costs and ensure you’re always filling up at affordable petrol stations.
#4 PREPARE FOOD FOR YOUR TRIP
A quick stop every few hours for a fast food meal or some snacks for the car might not seem like a big deal, but they can really add up on a long drive. Plus, you can sometimes get caught out by a long stint between stops. Save some money by preparing food to take with you. Putting together a couple of meals and a supply of snacks will ensure you’re well-fed throughout the trip and stop you from wasting money on unhealthy fast food.
The same goes for drinks, take a refillable water bottle with you so you can stay hydrated without wasting money (and plastic) buying bottled water.
#5 PREBOOK YOUR ACCOMMODATION
If it’s going to take a few days to get to your destination, then you’ll need somewhere to rest. Don’t leave booking your accommodation to the last minute. Booking ahead of time will save you money and relieve some of the stress finding somewhere suitable on the road.
The food you’ve prepared might not last the whole journey so it could save you some money to pick accommodation with meals included, or access to a kitchen. Try looking for Airbnbs, or hostels and hotels with a kitchen so you can cook for yourself and save money on eating out during the drive.
If you’re traveling on a tight budget (or you just like a bit more adventure) it could be worth picking up some camping gear and figuring out cheap places to pitch your tent for the night.
Sometimes you can’t avoid booking your accommodation last minute, so try looking for late deals, and use a comparison site such as Hotel Tonight to avoid paying too much for a room.
#6 CHECK YOUR BREAKDOWN COVER
While this will only save you money if things go wrong, making sure you have the best possible breakdown cover can be a lifesaver on a long trip.
If you get a flat tire, your car overheats, or any other issues and you’re in the middle of nowhere you’ll want to call roadside assistance without spending a fortune. Especially if your vehicle needs to be towed to a garage. You should also check whether you’re entitled to a courtesy car while yours is fixed so you don’t end up stranded.
#7 SET A BUDGET
To get serious about saving some money on a cross-country drive, set yourself a budget, and track your spending. This can include everything from fuel costs, to food and accommodation, even souvenirs.
Just keeping an eye on what you’re spending will help to keep the cost down – if you’re bad with numbers try using a budgeting app to monitor your road trip finances.
Whatever the reason for your cross-country drive, doing your research and planning out a route ahead of time will help you have a successful trip without breaking the bank.