Cheap Road Trip Ideas for Less Than $1,000
Yes, you can take a fantastic road trip for less than a grand no matter where you live!
A road trip is one of the great classic vacations that can be done in any season, for any reason, by anybody. Perhaps you are taking it for leisure. Maybe it is a business venture. Perhaps you’re in a band hitting the road (rock on!) or you want to photograph the great landmarks across the country.
Whether it be a trip you take with your friends, with your family, with your significant other, or all by yourself, a road trip is a great way to free yourself from the stress of your everyday life and see parts of the country—or the world for that matter—that you haven’t experienced yet. They can give a new perspective, provide fresh experiences, and be a ton of fun.
And the best part about a road trip? You can keep them relatively cheap as compared to other types of vacations. You might be wondering how…Well, read on, and wonder no more, because this article will let you know how to budget a fun, simple, and cost-effective road trip, keeping the whole vacation to less than $1,000.
First, think of a place you’ve always wanted to see that’s within 2,000 miles of your house. Next, it’s time to budget out your $1,000 to make that dream a reality!
The first budgeting problem you’ll run into is getting from place to place. Use 25% of your budget on gasoline.
First, find out the miles per gallon of your vehicle. The average miles per gallon of vehicles sold in the United States is 25 miles per gallon. The average price of a gallon of gas in the United States right now is $2.12. This means $250 will net you around 2,500 miles of gas.
Plot a road trip that will cover 2000 miles or less and use those 500 extra miles for emergencies—or maybe a spontaneous decision or two.
Here are some key points to keep in mind that all relate to that all-important gas gauge:
- All the information on how far you plan to drive each day should be plotted out. Know if you want to drive 250 miles (around 4 hours) a day, 500 miles (around 8 hours) a day, or somewhere in between.
- Know what times you want to stop for food and gas and where, and NEVER push your tank past where it’s logical. It’s better to overspend on gas than to run out, which can cost a whole lot of money in towing and derail your entire trip!
- Also, it’s important to remember, gas prices change as you move, so be sure to look up average prices for different places in advance and adjust your daily expenditures in other areas accordingly.
While on the road, you’ll need to keep yourself sustained with food and water. It may be enticing to just buy fast food every single time, but don’t rely on it as your main food source, as it can make you feel sick, sluggish, or give digestive problems when consumed exclusively for too long a time.
Take a another 25% of your budget, which is $250, and divide it up into several groups.
Here are some tips to keep your stomach happy:
- Invest $50 or so dollars in power bars, energy bars, and other quick, easy snacks that can be eaten in the car. This can net you, depending on brand and where you order from (I suggest ordering online for the best prices, rather than buying in person), between 25 and 40 power bars, which you may not even get through. However, they are a great breakfast, great if you’re in a pinch or behind schedule, and can be eaten quickly. They also provide energy and some solid nutritional value.
- Use the remaining $200 dollars and divide by the number of days you expect to be on the road. If you drive 250 miles a day, you’ll be on the road for 8 days. If you drive 500 miles a day, you’ll be on the road for 4. Driving longer days can get you farther faster, and also reduce some of your food and lodging costs. In any case, the number you get from this division will be how much you’re able to spend on food every day.
- Divide this number further into 3 to get a rough idea of how much you can spend on each meal. If this number is lower than you would’ve hoped, don’t be afraid to stop at a fast-food joint or two on your way, just don’t overdo it!
There are several ways to go about getting a place to sleep at night on a road trip. They go from more expensive options, such as hotels, to less expensive such as motels and hostels. There’s also the rough-and-tumble camping option for the more experienced road-trippers, but this should be saved for warmer months in places you know to have safe, legal camping
Use another $250 of your $1000 budget to cover these expenses. The number of days you’re on the road will once again affect the quality you are able to purchase.
If you go with the 4-day model, with the 500 miles of driving (around 8 hours), you can spend $75 a night on lodging. However, with the 8-day model (250 miles a day), you’ll have to reduce that to around $35 dollars a night.
It is especially important to research beforehand. A cursory google search can find the cheapest options for lodging in any area, so try to find something that’s within your budget. Be on the lookout for deals, such as reduced prices or free breakfast that can help you pinch a few more pennies.
Also, you should bring a tent, and know how to set it up just in case there’s some kind of worst-case scenario. You do not want to be unprepared and far away from home!
You can budget the remaining $250 for things like souvenirs, tours, and any other interesting things you may come across on your travels.
This money is especially helpful for those who love to travel off the beaten path and should be considered not only money to spend adventurously, but also your emergency fund as well, so don’t completely blow through it.
If needed, some of this money can be transitioned to food or lodging, but it is important to have some security.
Leisure is by far the least important of the expense groups, so if you need to cut one out to boost up a more important group, it should be this one.
Just remember, always keep at least $50 dollars of cash in your pocket for emergencies, such as calling a cab, buying some food, etc.
After breaking down all your expenses, you have around $250 for each category. See the graph below.
This category changes depending on where you go. One of the most important things about a road trip is experiencing the local culture of the place you end up visiting.
Going to New York? Catch a show! Driving down to Texas? Get some classic Texas Barbeque. Visiting California? Take a trip to Hollywood and see the walk of fame. Don’t spend all day in the car, you’ll miss what makes road tripping so important!
A road trip is among the best ways to get away from the stress and pressure of the modern world. It is a fun, exciting, educational, and life-changing experience to drive across large areas, meet people from all different backgrounds and places, and free yourself of the constraints of your daily life.
If budgeted properly and carefully, it can be affordable as well. Make sure to follow the budgeting details in this short guide closely, but also modify them for your own personal needs!
Be smart, safe, and responsible with your money, and have yourself an awesome time while you do it!