Road trips account for as many as 20% of vacations taken. It's clear to see why they are so popular: the opportunity to explore a new location, stopping when you like, and often at low cost.
It goes without saying that some road trips incur more expenses than others, depending on the area, the duration, and the habits of the travelers. So how should you budget for a road trip?
Read on for our guide to planning and affording the ultimate road trip.
Planning Your Route
When considering road trip costs, it is important to plan your route with your budget in mind. Your available funds will determine if you can afford to fly somewhere to start the trip, or if your current location will be the starting point.
There are many incredible routes to drive within Australia, such as along the famous Big Lap, The Great Ocean Road, and Tasmania's East Coast. Don't forget you could also head to nearby New Zealand and make your trip international!
The duration of your road trip will also need to be carefully considered. For many, holiday allowance from work will be a major factor. When planning your route, it's important to overestimate the amount of time you'll need to complete the journey. This will help give you flexibility during unforeseen crises and will avoid the sentiment of being rushed along your itinerary.
Factor In Essential and Non-Essential Costs
Any road trip budget needs to be broken down into two key areas: essential and non-essential costs. Renting or buying a car is an essential part of your road trip – unless you're going via bus. For many, this will also be the largest single item on your list of expenses.
Other essential costs to factor in include gas, accommodation, and food. There are easy ways to minimize each of these areas. For example, by traveling in a motorhome, you'll save plenty of bucks on accommodation and food. The benefits of a motorhome vs car become more apparent the longer the road trip lasts.
You'll also need to factor in the non-essential costs. These could also be referred to as optional extras on a road trip. This might include entrance prices to national parks and other tourist hotspots.
When planning your road trip and examining your budget, you'll have to consider how many optional extras you'll want to include.
Choosing Your Vehicle
Choosing a road trip vehicle is a huge part of planning the adventure. If you're looking for the cheapest option possible, you'll have to weigh up the expenses of a gas-guzzling motorhome that means no accommodation expenses, against an efficient car that gets you plenty of miles to the gallon.
If you don't have a lot of cash on hand at the moment of needing to purchase a car, it's worth considering taking out a loan. The reasonable repayments often make this one of our top car purchasing tips. Make sure to visit a comparison site to compare the different deals offered by lenders.
If you're thinking about renting a car, you'll have to make sure that your planned trip doesn't exceed the rental companies mileage limits.
Finally, if you're heading abroad for your road, be sure to check out the driving laws. You don't want to end up unexpectedly driving on the wrong side of the road!
Pre-Road Trip Saving Tips
There are plenty of ways to economize before setting out on your journey. A fundamental aspect to think about is how many people you're traveling with. More people generally equates to a cheaper journey, as you'll be able to split the cost of gas and the purchase of the vehicle.
But, it's important to balance this against the comfort of driving with a car full of people. It will also mean choosing a road trip playlist that suits all of the passengers' tastes!
Another great way to save money is buying stocking up on food and snacks in advance. Preparing a trail mix or hitting the budget grocery stores ahead of your journey will save you from having to splurge at expensive gas station stores.
Lastly, you'll want to make sure you're properly insured ahead of starting your trip. While at first, this might not sound like a good way to save money, it will be well worth the expense should anything go wrong during the journey.
Saving Money On the Road
Finally, while on the go there are lots of ways of making your road trip more economical. Unless you're driving a campervan, the cheapest accommodation option will be camping. Of course, your location and the season you travel during may rule this out as an option. If not, there are plenty of free campsite around the country (and the world!) which make this a great way of saving money.
The Dyrt is a really helpful app to download to locate campsites wherever you are.
In terms of food, cooking is of course far cheaper than eating out. You might want to consider bringing cooking equipment along with you, or staying at hostels that have a kitchen available.
If you are desperate to eat out and avoid another cheese sandwich, opt for lunch instead of dinner. Prices are usually cheaper at lunchtime, and many restaurants offer bargain set menus.
That's How to Budget For the Ultimate Road Trip
With the right preparation and a few pieces of good advice, affording an incredible road trip is easily done. If you're planning the ultimate road trip, one final thing to remember is to pack your camera. You are sure to see many wonderful sights along the way that you'll want to remember forever.