How to save money on a road trip: a HomeAway Truckie’s words of wisdom

Traveling is fun, but it can also be quite expensive.  The following tips are suggestions for how to make your wallet stop crying when the travel bug bites and you decide to hit the road:

Go the speed limit. It’s safer and a financially responsible decision to travel at the recommended speeds posted on the highway.  Think less police encounters and greater fuel efficiency.

vacation rental

Our Fairmont Chalet in Montana... woodie!

Stay in a vacation rental. By using vacation rental websites, like HomeAway.com, you can often find great deals on any number of housing accommodations in the area you’d like to visit next. You can even RENT A WHOLE HOUSE FOR HALF THE COST OF A HOTEL! And I do mean a ‘ whole house’… John and I ALWAYS have our separate rooms (and often separate bathrooms too!) and there is usually a spacious living room and a kitchen that afford us the extra space we need to spread out after spending 5-9 hours in the Truckster together. Don’t take my word for it though – just peruse the 540,000+ rental listings within the HomeAway network to find the perfect fit for you and your family.

Buy groceries. I’ve already mentioned the perks of having a kitchen just because of the space it provides in contrast to the car-cramped traveler. But there’s not need to be a fastfood-ridden traveler…having a kitchen also allows the money conscious family to make a grocery stop, so eating out all the time won’t be necessary. *Also a good idea for the healthy eater/traveler.

Always know where your next cup is coming from…COFFEE! If you’re a coffee drinker that just can’t go without the taste of caffeine early in the morning, you’ll want to ask your rental owner if they provide a coffee pot and grounds. Many of the rentals I’ve encountered this summer do have the coffee-lover’s basics in the kitchen for guests to enjoy. However, if not, you can still save a few bucks during your travels by purchasing some instant coffee like the Starbuck’s brand Via. It really isn’t that bad and you can always splurge with a gas station $0.99 cup every once in a while.

Do laundry. Save money on baggage fees if your road trip starts or ends with a flight by packing light and doing laundry while on vacation. Many vacation rentals come with an in-house washer and dryer. I know that some might say “why would I want to ruin my vacation by doing laundry” but I can personally attest to the fact that it won’t put a damper on your vacation fun if you throw in a load before dinner or bedtime. Plus, your wallet will thank you since you won’t be throwing away money on needless fees, AND you’ll be able to de-stress without hosting anxiety about having to lug around a gargantuan suitcase.

Happy Chef

Delicious, yet best in moderation

Be smart about eating out. If you are planning to eat out, I recommend the (more affordable) lunch menu, water as a beverage choice. Also, talk to your vacation rental owner, who is often a local expert, about community restaurants. These establishments tend to offer cheaper cuisine than your average chain restaurant. In addition, you’re likely to stumble upon fresh and delicious tastes that are characteristic to the area. Avoid the tourist traps!

Pack a water bottle. John and I save so much money by filling-up our bottles each morning before we head out for the day or hit the road. It’s so tempting to wander into the gas station and buy a drink when you’re stretching your legs or refueling, but if you’ve got plenty of water with you, there’s no need. Stand outside and enjoy the fresh air instead!

Find out what’s happening locally. Pick up the local newspaper and find out what events are going on during the course of your stay. Your homeowner may also have the inside scoop on activities as well. During our Truckster road trip, the Truckies have discovered a number of free attractions, summer concerts, and must-see stops that cost nothing.

Say Cheese. Skip the tacky souvenir in lieu of great photos by bringing a camera on your trip. There are all kinds of things you can do with the memories you capture with a camera or video recorder: make a movie or scrapbook or slide-show or decoupage your next coffee table with photos from your adventures. The possibilities are endless…

Mt. Rushmore Jefferson

Jefferson.

Mt. Rushmore Roosevelt

Teddy.

Mount Rushmore

Some day...John?

How’d I do? How do you save money while on the road? Leave a comment if you have any tips that might be helpful on the Great American Road Trip as we continue our journey West. We’ve already passed through Wyoming today, and tonight we’ll settle into a wooden chalet rental in Fairmont, Montana.

Wish you were here (to see these VIEWS!)

-Steph

Here is a quick home video of our Fairmont, Montana house.

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Truckster Travels Through South Dakota

If you need to drive along Route 90 through South Dakota, I have the stops for you!   To some, this quest from east to west across the Dakotas may seem…boring? dull? Not if you do it right!

The first interesting thing I found while driving through 350 miles of grass is all of the grasshoppers! Seriously, it seems somewhat obvious, but it’s amazing if you ever witness it. The herd of them was so thick, at one point a grasshopper went Dracula on me and latched on my neck.  Don’t worry, I fought it off before any real damage was done.

Where...am I?

Where...am I?

Next, we had to stop at 1880s town. This place is no joke! They actually have a real (mechanical) Kevin Costner who sits out front and waves at you as you enter the gift shop. Why would they have this robotic heartthrob gretting guests? Dances With Wolves was filmed nearby and when you come here, you will feel it in the landscape. Kevin and I had a staredown, and you can clearly see who was in control…

After watching billboards for a store called, “Wall Drug” for hours, we decided to check it out (it was either that or say hello to more grasshoppers). The highlights of this “adventureland” were a monkey that sings and plays the piano and a reindeer/rabbit that you can sit on and ride.

Quite a crooner

Quite a crooner

The new Santa!

The new Santa!

Finally, we reached our destination of Mt. Rushmore! Want a grand view. I couldn’t get over that I was staring at actual Rushmore. I’ve always pictured it in my head, seen clips of it blowin up and crumbling in movies, but when you visit in real life, 4 stone heads can make you feel quite inferior. Theydidn’t explode in an awesome spray of cinders nor did they get blasted with lasers like in the movie Richie Rich, but their stillness was exciting.

Mt. Rushmore and Truckster

Mt. Rushmore and Truckster

Tomorrow, we’re continuting west to Montana!
-John