Budget Road Trip Ideas (+ Hourly Goodie Bags)

by Sami

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Just in time for summer family travel, I’m bringing you my budget road trip ideas. Besides helping you save money on the road, I’m sharing my hourly road trip goodie bag ideas to keep your sanity while on the road too!

budget road trip ideas and hourly goodie bags

Budget Road Trip Ideas

There are two things you need to do before hitting the road:

  1. Determine the purpose of your trip
  2. Come up with a budget

The Purpose of Your Road Trip

Determining the purpose of your road trip is important because it determines your budget. For example, if the purpose of your road trip is merely a form of transportation to get to a destination (say a theme park or the beach), then you’ll want to spend as little money as possible along the way.

However, if your road trip is your vacation, then you’ll want to budget more for stops in each city for lodging and attractions. For example, we are taking several road trips this summer: one to see family, one for a baby shower and another for a mother/son event. Our budget looks very different for each trip. A trip where we don’t have to spend money on hotels allows us to spend more of our budget on eating out and sightseeing.

Road Trip Budget

After you decide the purpose of your trip, you need to come up with your road trip budget. You need to take the following factors into consideration:

  1. Food
  2. Lodging
  3. Gas/Car Maintenance
  4. Sightseeing
  5. Souvenirs

The total of each of these road trip budget items should not exceed your overall budget.

Once you know how much you’re going to spend, let’s plan your trip. With this method, you should be able to make multiple road trips with your family this summer!

When To Travel on Your Road Trip to Save the Most Money

You know how you can typically find cheaper flights Tuesdays & Wednesdays? A similar principle applies for road trips.

If you are going to a tourist destination, try to schedule your actual travel days for the weekends when traffic is light and attractions are more expensive. Then you can spend the weekdays at the tourist attractions when they’re less busy and hotels are less expensive.

Pack Smart

The benefit of a road trip is you can bring (almost) as much as you want! Don’t wait until you get to a tourist destination to buy things like sunscreen, towels, goggles & sunglasses that could cost you high convenience fees.

But don’t pack too much – weighing your car down will affect your gas mileage. Also try to use soft bags/duffle bags and packing cubes so things will fit easier in your trunk or your backseat.

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Hourly Road Trip Goodie Bags

One of the best ways to keep kids content on a long road trip (without devices) is to do hourly road trip goodie bags. The Dollar Store is your friend for this!

Simply get some brown lunch bags and fill them with small toys, gum, snacks, craft supplies, puzzle or even souvenirs that give your kids a clue about your destination. I love filling them with snacks because it keeps the kids from continually asking for food and you save a ton of money by buying them in advance versus waiting to buy them at a gas station once on the road.

An alternate to hourly goodie bags would be to have the kids open the goodie bags once you pass through certain cities. This would help account for pit stops and traffic. I love these road trip goodie bag tags I found online from It’s Always Autumn.

Bringing Food vs. Eating Out

Aside from the road trip goodie bag snacks I mentioned above, try to bring your own food from home on your road trip. Not only will you be able to infuse a few healthier options into your trip, but you’ll save money.

You know you’ll have to eat out at some point, so try to follow this method:

  • Find a hotel with free breakfasts or bring your own food to tide you over until lunch
  • Eat a large lunch as late as possible (ideally between 2-3); this would be your one meal out for the day
  • Think snacks for dinner: popcorn, fruit, tea or even splitting one pizza as a family

Another way to save money on your road trip is to buy restaurant gift cards before you leave (for example, buy them from your local grocery store and rack up reward points, or use drugstore reward points to buy gift cards there).

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Save on Sightseeing

A few tips for saving on sightseeing and family activities:

  • Don’t forget to schedule some activities along the way
  • Break up a longer trip into several destinations along the way
  • Check sites like Groupon or Travelzoo for local deals
  • Try a fun scavenger hunt like Urban Adventure Quest to get to know the city (Use code FLBLOG to save 20% on your quest!)

Come back later to watch my segment from Talk of the Town or watch past Talk of the Town TV segments now.

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