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Money-Saving Tips for Your Next Road Trip

Money-Saving Tips for Your Next Road Trip
Jason Steele
Jason SteeleUpdated October 12, 2022
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Editor’s note: Lantern by SoFi seeks to provide content that is objective, independent and accurate. Writers are separate from our business operation and do not receive direct compensation from advertisers or partners. Read more about our Editorial Guidelines and How We Make Money.
Taking a road trip is an American tradition. It can be a great way to vacation and see the country. However, because traveling by car has become more costly, many people are looking for ideas on how to save money on a road trip. Fortunately, there are smart ways to spend less. Read on for tips on planning your road trip on a budget.

Saving on a Road Trip by Redeeming Your Fuel Points

With the higher cost of fuel, saving money on gas is a top priority.There are many retailers that offer points toward discounts on fuel. For example, Kroger stores, which includes brands such as King Soopers, Ralph’s, and Fred Meyer’s, offer fuel points that can be redeemed at the Kroger Family of Stores Fuel Centers for up to $1 off per gallon. With this program, you earn one point per dollar spent on most purchases, and double points on gift card purchases. Safeway stores, which includes Albertsons, also have a fuel rewards program. 

How to Redeem Your Fuel Points

With programs like Kroger’s, all you have to do is scan your fuel card, or input the phone number associated with your account, in order to redeem up to $1 off per gallon, on up to 35 gallons per fill up. To save the most money with your fuel points, use them when your gas tank is nearly empty, so that you can maximize the discount. Redeeming fuel points is a key strategy in learning how to road trip cheaply. 

Use Gas Rewards Cards

Another way to save money on fuel is to use a credit card that earns bonus rewards for gas purchases. There are credit cards offered by gasoline retailers, and there are also credit cards that offer rewards for gasoline purchases made at any retailer. For example, some of the top cash back credit cards, like the Costco Anywhere card from Citi, offer 4% cash back on up to $7,000 in annual purchases of gasoline from any retailer, including Costco. There’s no annual fee for this card with your paid Costco membership. 

How to Apply for a Gas Rewards Card

You can apply for a gas rewards card just as you would any other credit card. When choosing a credit card, look for one that offers the most valuable rewards for the kinds of purchases you’ll be making. Check out the top rewards credit cards, and consider not just their rewards program, but also interest rates, fees, and other benefits offered. For example, many Bank of America rewards credit cards are among the top travel rewards credit cards offered. Once you’ve chosen a credit card, you can typically apply online. 

More Tips for Saving Money on a Road Trip

Beyond redeeming fuel points and using gas rewards credit cards, there are a number of other ways to save money on a road trip.

Setting and Sticking to a Budget

When you’re on vacation, it can be easy to spend more than you planned. But if you’re serious about saving money, then you’ll want to make your road trip on a budget. Before leaving home, create a vacation budget that includes the cost of gas, as well as food, lodging, and entertainment. Then, stay on track by sticking to it. 

Planning Your Route in Advance

Another way to cut down on costs is to plan your route ahead of time. You’ll save both time and money by choosing the most efficient route that takes you directly to the places you want to see. 

Splitting the Cost With Friends

Agree with your friends beforehand to split all costs of your road trip, including gas, food, and lodging. While this may seem complicated, especially if there is a group of you, payment apps like Venmo and Zelle can make it easier.  

Packing a Lot of Snacks 

Bringing your own food will typically be less expensive than eating at restaurants along the way. Buy snack foods and drinks at the grocery store before you leave home — it’s more affordable than purchasing them at gas stations or convenience stores en route. Bring a cooler to keep your drinks cold.  

Exploring Accommodation Options

If you’d like to stay at motels or hotels, make reservations in advance and search for the best deals on booking sites as well as the hotel’s website. Also consider lodging alternatives like Airbnb and VRBO that can save you money. To make your road trip cheaper, go camping. All you need is a tent or a van. 

Making Your Gas Last a Little Bit Longer

There are several ways to save money on gas by increasing fuel efficiency. For instance, make sure your car’s tires are properly inflated, which can help you get better mileage. Switch on cruise control to help reduce fuel consumption. And use an app like Gas Buddy to help find the cheapest gas in whatever area you’re in.In addition, if you’re planning to buy a new vehicle before your road trip, saving money on a car can help you with your road trip costs — especially if you buy a fuel-efficient model.

Paying for City Parking in Advance

If you’re visiting a city, paying for parking can be costly. Instead of driving around looking for the best parking deal, and wasting gas, use an app like Spot Hero to find affordable parking and reserve it in advance. 

Use reward credit cards for other expenses

Beyond saving on gas, there are many other ways a travel rewards credit card can help you save money on your road trip. For example, credit cards can offer you substantial points, miles, or cash back for purchases from restaurants, hotels, supermarkets, and entertainment. 

The Takeaway

Even with the higher price of gas, a road trip can still be an affordable way to travel and enjoy a great vacation. By using strategies like setting a budget, planning your route ahead of time, and using a gas rewards credit card, you can save money and see the country. If you’re looking for a credit card for your road trip travels, Lantern by SoFi can help. You can use our credit card marketplace to easily compare cards and find the best option for you.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I redeem my fuel points before going on a road trip?
How can I save gas on a long road trip?
What is the cheapest way to take a road trip?
Photo credit: iStock/Prostock-Studio

About the Author

Jason Steele

Jason Steele

Jason Steele has been writing about credit cards and award travel since 2008. One of the nation's leading experts in this field, he has contributed to dozens of personal finance and travel outlets and has been widely quoted in the mainstream media.
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