Yesterday I went over 20 ways to save on a road trip. And today I’m going to take you through the details of creating a road trip budget. Creating a budget for a road trip is a little nerdy (what?! nerdy? who? not me!) and maybe a little too Type A for some folks. But I’d highly recommend it. We don’t want to come back after a relaxing trip to a mound of debt. Am I right?!
To help you figure out costs, I recommend the following:
A Travel Budget Calculator
Travel budget calculators are quick and convenient. I like to use online travel calculators like this one and this one for the initial and estimated cost of my trip. Then, I get real nerdy and create a more official budget in Google Drive. With a spreadsheet in Google Drive, I can see the hard numbers, including money I spent before the trip. If I have wifi, I can also update the costs along the way! If you’ve never created a spreadsheet in Google drive here’s a video on how to do that.
A Fuel Cost Calculator
Paying to fuel up your car is no fun– especially if you drive a gas guzzler. With the app and website Gas Buddy, pump prices are no longer a surprise. Just put your route and vehicle information into the calculator and Gas Buddy will pinpoint the cheapest gas on the route, so you know exactly where to fill up and the exact cost!
Don’t forget to factor in costs for:
Tolls can be one of those unexpected and bummer costs on a road trip. To avoid an unexpected toll, or even worse getting caught without the cash to pay the toll, put your trip into Google Maps before you leave. Google Maps will warn you if there is toll on your route. You might be able to go around the toll, but sometimes tolls are unavoidable. Most states with tolls will have some sort of prepaid quick pass. Florida has a “Sun Pass” that makes travelling through tolls cheaper and quicker. Just a little bit of Internet searching should bring up the costs of the tolls in the states you are planning to visit.
To me, food costs are the most difficult thing to budget for on a trip. I don’t know what I’ll want to eat tomorrow, so how do I know what I want to eat three months from now?! Unfortunately food costs are more of an estimation. To even attempt a budgetary number, I look at the price range of the restaurants in the area on Yelp. I know that some days a mom & pop diner will do just fine, but other days I’ll want something a little more fancy. It’ll usually even out, but I always give myself a little more wiggle room in this department.
Don’t ever forget to budget for experiences. Experiences, like parasailing in the keys or seeing Cirque du Soleil in Vegas can really make your trip. Just do your research before you go! You might be able to find online coupons or discounts for ordering in advance.
Lodging will probably be the most expensive part of your trip. Remember, you can ask to stay with relatives or friends, couch surf or even camp. For this trip, we’re planning a combination of budget hotels, a couple days in the lap of luxury and a couple of days camping! That way we get the best of everything! Lodging costs are fairly easy to calculate if you book all your hotels in advance. Remember to always check for discounts and shop around for a hotel. Start your search early and you could save some major buckaroos. Experts recommend booking about 6 weeks out, but for some travel locales (like the beach during the summer) I’d recommend booking much farther in advance. My favorite hotel deal site is Kayak since it searches all the travel deal sites at once!
It’s the law of the universe. Something is going to happen and you’re going to need a little more money than you thought you would need. It’s always better to over budget and come home with money in your pocket than come home with pockets full of sand and regret.
How do you create a budget for a road trip? Let me know in the comments!