This could just be the summer of the road trip. Or the fall, too.
Travel is changing drastically thanks to coronavirus, upending upcoming flights and forcing us all to reconsider our travel goals for the near future. If you're picturing a road trip instead of a flight, you're not alone. Gas prices are as cheap as ever, after all. And we're all ready to stay a bit closer to home.
Road trips might scream “thrifty travel,” but the costs can still add up along the way. Follow these tips before you start planning to keep it cheap and make your future road trip a smashing success.
Start with a Plan
First things first: You need an itinerary.
Whether you're staying close to home or heading cross-country, start by doing some research on popular routes. An awesome tool to help guide your planning is Roadtrippers.
Browse the most famous road trips, plan your itinerary, and plot your stops along the way. Roadtrippers even includes free guides like “National Parks Trips” or “Classic USA Road Trips” to get you started.
Thrifty Tip: Are Utah's Mighty Five on your bucket list? Check out our guide to road-tripping the Utah National Parks.
Once you've got an idea of the route you want to take, make your own Google Map to plan things out! Google My Maps is my absolute favorite way to organize and plan trips. Plot your must-see destinations on a Google My Maps for your next trip, categorize and organize each activity with colors and icons, and then use the map you made in your Google Maps app while traveling.
For example, I planned our Iceland road trip itinerary and color-coded by day. The Google My Map I created helped us stay on schedule, measure the driving time each day, and easily keep track of our must-see spots to stop at each day and campsites to stay at each night.
Read more: How to use Google My Maps to create a visual itinerary.
If you're planning to visit national parks or do some hiking on your road trip, don’t leave home without downloading the AllTrails app. Find trails and plan your hikes with the most accurate hiking maps and directions.
You can even record your hike and see the distance and elevation you conquer! AllTrails has a handy “Lifeline” feature that allows you to share your location with loved ones while on the trail.
Check out our other favorite travel apps!
Save on Your Rental Car
While on a road trip, you'll likely be spending much of your time in a car. If you're not taking your own car, here are a few of our favorite tips to save.
- Search with Autoslash: it finds the best coupons and tracks your reservation after booking. It will rebook you if the rate drops!
- Use your travel rewards card with the best rental car coverage to skip the pricey rental company insurance.
- Check out Turo: the Airbnb of cars. It's super easy to use, and oftentimes much cheaper.
- Consider these things before picking a rental car company.
Read our guide to booking the cheapest rental car possible!
Try Camping (or Glamping!)
Want to go the ultra-thrifty route? It's time to camp!
If the standard tent setup isn't for you, we've got good news. “Glamping” is taking many of the most popular natural destinations by storm. It's “glamorous camping,” and it provides the amenities you want with the peaceful nature escape you need.
From extra-large tents to yurts to decked-out airstream campers, each glamping accommodation will look and feel quite different. Like other accommodation styles, each varies widely in price range and amenities. For this reason, always be sure to read what amenities do and do not come with a glamping site.
Take a tent like this one in Port Angeles, Washington for example:
Yeah, this isn’t your ordinary tent! This glamping tent includes a mini-fridge, coffee maker, and water cooler that runs on solar power, and an outdoor heater. Facilities provided are porta-potties. Other glamping sites will often include full bathrooms and showers.
Need some more glamping and camping inspiration? Check out our guide to exploring Iceland in a camper van, and camping in Kauai, Hawaii.
Make your Hotel & Airbnb Stays Free
Unless you're glamping or camping, you'll still need to book accommodations along the way in a hotel or Airbnb.
If you'd prefer to take the Airbnb route, check out our tips for picking the best Airbnb possible and how to save on your bookings.
One of our favorite ways to make Airbnb stays free is to pay with the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card. Then, remove the cost of the Airbnb with your Venture miles. It's one of the easiest ways to redeem miles in the world of travel rewards, and the best way to make an Airbnb stay free!
Click Here to get more information about the Capital One Venture Card.
If you'd rather stay in hotels as you criss-cross the nation, several credit cards can help you cut down on lodging costs. Some hotel credit cards are better than others – all three of these options give you a free night just for holding the card, along with some bonus points for award stays and other benefits.
To start with, you can earn 60,000 points on the World of Hyatt credit card. You’ll earn 30,000 points after you spend $3,000 on the card in the first 3 months of card membership. And another 30,000 points by earning 2x points on all spending up to $15,000 in the first six months.
Read: Best Uses of the Hyatt Free Night Certificate.
Click Here to get more information about the World of Hyatt Credit Card.
The Chase IHG Rewards Club Premier credit card is a great hotel card that can provide travelers with a ton of value. You can currently earn 150,000 IHG Rewards Points after spending $3,000 in the first three months of card membership.
Click Here to learn more about the IHG Rewards Club Premier Card.
Finally, our favorite hotel card: the Amex Hilton Aspire card. The Hilton Aspire card will also grant you top tier Diamond elite status just for holding it along with a ton of other benefits.
Apply Here for the Hilton Honors Aspire Card (for full disclosure, this is our personal referral link)
While there’s still so much more to master, these money-saving tips and strategies are at the core of thrifty travel. Don’t think of it as hacking; think of this as using the best tools and resources out there to stretch your travel funds further.
Which of these tips have you mastered already? What do you want to learn more about? Drop us a comment below!