There’s no better way to celebrate your long-awaited vacation than by opening the throttle and chewing up the asphalt this summer. The cross-country road trip is an American classic — and for good reason! With over four million miles of highways, the US has some of the most scenic drives in the entire world. From the California State Route 1 to Route 66 and everything in between, you’re spoiled for choice when it comes to itineraries. The only thing holding you back from exploring the open road is your budget.
If you’re worried your finances may put a premature stop to your adventure this summer, take a look at the following tips. These hacks will save you money while you see the sights.
- Use a budget
A budget isn’t just to keep your household finances balanced throughout the year. This financial tool is there to help you figure out how you can achieve specific goals, like road tripping across the country. Most financial experts suggest tracking your expenses for at least three months. This gives you a good idea of how your money flows in any given month. It also offers insights into what you can realistically afford.
On the flip side, you should also research the expenses you can expect to pay on your trip. Things like gas, tolls, accommodation, and food are high on your list, but don’t forget to balance your budget with unexpected automotive maintenance and medical emergencies. Investopedia’s made a general guide here, but it’s a good idea to confirm these costs on your own.
Though gas isn’t as high as it has been in the past, it’s still an expensive addition to your trip. You can keep your cost at the pumps low by downloading GasBuddy to your phone. Its app helps you find the cheapest gas stations anywhere in the US. You may also win a weekly draw for a $250 gas card if you regularly update the app with the prices of the gas stations you pass.
- Brush up on basic automotive maintenance
Do you know how to change a tire or jump your car? If the answer is “no” then it’s time you learn these automotive basics.
While there are some issues only a professional should tackle, there are plenty of small repairs you can take on yourself. When you can make these repairs on your own, you can avoid some expensive automotive bills that may cut your road trip short.
- Expect the unexpected
Sometimes you’ll encounter speed bumps on your trip that surpass your novice skills with a wrench. A fender bender, unresponsive brakes, or transmission issues may force you to call AAA. Though you may not enjoy thinking about these worst-case scenarios, it’s important you know how you’d pay for them. As mentioned above, a well-made budget will have some savings set aside to cover these emergencies. But if necessary repairs surpass what these savings can cover, would you know how to fill in the gaps?
Before you take off, do some research on online payday loans. When you can find fast online payday loans, you’ll be able to pay for your repairs quickly — sometimes as soon as one business day after you’re approved. In some cases, some lenders like MoneyKey make it possible to manage your account from an app, meaning you can check in wherever you have Wi-Fi — on the road, in a hotel, or back at home.
Compare this to conventional loan sources, which may take weeks to come through. Every hour spent waiting on complex borrowing processes means you’ll see less of the country, so make your choice wisely.
- Bring along a car mattress (and other camping gear)
Depending on where you plan on driving, you can skip the hotel and sleep in your car. While your car seat may not provide a comfortable resting place, you can convert the back seat or trunk space into a temporary bedroom with just an inflatable car mattress. These beds balance in the rear section of a sedan or the larger trunk space of a van and/or SUV. Once set up, they give you a comfortable place to catch some shuteye. Best of all, they’re a fraction of the cost of one night’s stay at a hotel.
As long as you keep to safe areas that you’re legally allowed to park in overnight, you’ll cut some expenses out of your budget. Many of these places often end up being national camping parks, so come equipped with camping gear. The best campsites offer full washroom facilities and other amenities, and they’re always cheaper than a hotel.
The road trip is America’s quintessential summer vacation, and it’s something everyone should try at least once. Don’t let something like finances put the brakes on your chance at adventure. Experience the open road by taking advantage of these financial hacks and you’ll keep our cross-country trip affordable.