How to Road Trip on a Budget

The 70th Annual Maine Potato Blossom Festival has been in full swing this week, with the parade scheduled for Saturday. Because I’ll once again be driving the Green Machine in the parade, I’ve got to prepare for a little bit of a road trip! Fort Fairfield is a six-hour drive from my home in Southern Maine. Although it’s not a particularly long road trip, I’m still looking to make the commute as budget-friendly as possible. If you’re looking to travel the state, or even the country this summer, I’ve put together some tips on taking a road trip for cheap!

Schedule a Tune Up

Make a visit to a familiar mechanic for a general check-up before you begin a road trip. Check your tires, battery, wiper blades, lights and fluid levels. This can help you avoid any breakdowns that have the potential for costly repairs with unfamiliar mechanics. Not only could a breakdown cut your road trip short, but it could put quite a dent in your savings. If possible, put aside some money for when those unexpected expenses pop up.

Pack Wisely

Make a list of essential items ahead of your trip and be sure to check it twice before departing. A toothbrush, phone charger and a razor are all things you’ll more than likely use along your journey. You probably already have these essential items at home already, so avoid paying a pretty penny and bring them with you! These items can cost more when purchased onsite at your final destination. Paying for something you already own stings, so avoid the unnecessary purchase and put a little extra effort into preparation. It will certainly pay off!

Be Cautious of Gas Prices

Gas has dropped in price compared to a few years ago, but the cost of driving around adds up quickly. Instead of stressfully searching around for the cheapest gas, use apps such as CheapGas or GasBuddy to locate the station with the best prices. According to, fuel efficiency decreases as your speed increases, making road trips more expensive for those with heavy feet. Slow down and enjoy the scenery! And when it is time to fill up, look for gas stations away from the highway. Gas stations adjacent to the highway are typically a bit more expensive than others, as they are the most convenient options.

Save Your Data

Unless you have an unlimited data plan, which seem to be few and far between these days, you’re probably draining gigabytes and risking overage fees with your use of GPS and music streaming. Instead, take screenshots of your maps and download music to your phone ahead of time. Pack a physical copy of an atlas if you can to avoid any potential problems. Unfortunately, phones do spontaneously stop working. And while you’re at it, bring along some old CDs as a backup.

Plan Ahead with Food and Lodging

Create a budget when it comes to your food and lodging, and stick to it. Pack filling, healthy snacks like granola bars and nuts with you. Avoid any perishables, or snacks that melt or are messy. Packing your own snacks can reduce the number of stops you make, where you can end up paying the premium. And if you do stop, use apps like LivingSocial or Groupon to find deals on restaurants. Book your hotels far in advance for a lower cost or consider digging the old sleeping bag out of the closet and going camping. You can use to find a free place to camp out for the night.

Split Costs with Others

A road trip by yourself can be both lonely and expensive. Plan a trip with friends or family and plan to split the costs among everyone. With current technology like mobile banking, Venmo, and PayPal, splitting costs has never been so easy. And if you’re road tripping through Maine, take advantage of the surcharge-free SURF ATM network for free withdrawals and easy access to your money.

Are you planning on taking a road trip this summer? Let me know where!

Take care,