How to Plan a Road Trip on a Budget

Enjoy your travels without breaking the bank.

To many people, a road trip is a perfect way to travel while staying safe and saving money. But costs can still add up quickly if you aren’t careful! These tips from AAA will help you plan and budget for your road trip to avoid unnecessary expenses along the way.

Set priorities for your trip.

Being clear about what you and your travel companions want out of the trip is key to successful planning and budgeting. Are you looking to get to and from your destination as quickly as possible, or do you want to spend more time sightseeing? Are hotel amenities and upscale dining essential, or are you okay with a more no-frills approach?

You might also want to consider whether or not you want to visit major tourist attractions or stay off the beaten path to avoid crowds.

What are the absolute must-dos on this trip vs. some things that might be nice to do if you have the time? Striking a balance between everyone’s priorities will help you allocate your time and budget as you plan your itinerary.

Estimate expenses and determine an overall budget.

After establishing priorities, start writing some costs down. Include categories for lodging, food, gas and fees for admissions, activities and entertainment. If the bottom line is too expensive for your budget, look at where you might be able to economize. Fewer days away from home and cheaper accommodations are probably the best places to start.

If your budget feels squeezed, start putting some money aside for your trip, either in a savings account or a prepaid debit card. Doing this will help you reduce or avoid the high-interest rates involved with carrying trip expenses overtime on your credit card.

Plan your trip to include free or low-cost attractions close to home.

If money is tight, consider a shorter trip in-state or a nearby state. Two or three nights away exploring state or national parks, landmarks and museums can be just as much fun as a long trip that’s far away.

AAA members get discounts on attraction tickets for popular theme parks like Cedar PointKings Island and LEGOLAND Discovery Center. Members can even find discounts for world-famous theme parks like Walt Disney World® and Universal Orlando Resort.

Consider purchasing a national park pass.

For an $80 annual fee, the America the Beautiful Pass covers entrance fees for the pass owner and up to three adult companions at more than 2,000 national parks, monuments and battlefields across the country. This pass can be a great bargain if you plan to hit several parks on this trip or throughout the upcoming year. Plus, children 16 and younger receive free admission.

Talk to a travel agent. 

Speaking with a travel agent can simplify planning, cost, itinerary, budget and working through your priority list. Travel agents help with seamless, budget-friendly trip planning and can often find hotels, attractions and car rentals at discounted rates. You can book an appointment with a AAA Travel agent for free! You can also speak to a AAA financial services agent for more budgeting tips.