Nov 1 2017 digital camera photos 098
The beautiful Southwest United States is always a great road trip adventure!

We usually take 3 or more extended trips per year.  Friends and family sometimes say we are “lucky” – well luck has nothing to do with it!  We don’t spend as much money as people might think.  Here are 10 of my favorite ways to save money and still have plenty of fun while traveling.

  1. Drive don’t fly whenever possible.  Flying is no longer cheap, easy, or fun.  We only fly when necessary because of time or distance.  We drive a very fuel-efficient Toyota Prius usually averaging around 48 miles per gallon on an a road trip.  Our costs for transportation on a 3,000 mile road trip are usually $200.00 or less.  Since we don’t pay for airline tickets or rental cars, this alone saves us a bundle.  Make sure your vehicle is in good shape before heading out on the road.
  2. Use hotel reward programs.  We patronize a few favorite hotel chains and earn free nights, upgrades, etc.  Sign up for their emails too – I regularly receive discount offers that can save frequent travelers hundreds of dollars.
  3. AAA/AARP discounts – use them!  Many people belong to one of these organizations and may not be taking advantage of all of the travel discounts they offer on hotels, rental cars, restaurants, and attractions just by showing your card.  I am in the habit of asking whether or not a discount is offered because not all establishments advertise it.  For example, the Denny’s restaurant chain offers AARP members 15% off of any purchase in the United States.  Hard Rock offers AAA members 10% off meals.  Most hotel chains in the U.S. offer between 5-10% for AAA and AARP members.
  4. Follow your favorite hotels and restaurant chains on social media.  It’s becoming more common for businesses of all types to release their hot deals and coupons through social media channels like Facebook and Twitter.
  5. KOA Kampgrounds of America ( is often a great option.  Even if you don’t camp in a tent or have an RV, these campgrounds are great for road trippers.  We regularly spend nights in KOA Kabins.  KOAs are often located near the types of outdoor attractions we enjoy like National Parks and are frequently cheaper than local motels and hotels.
  6. Airbnb rentals ( are a great way to save on lodging costs.  If you haven’t checked out Airbnb, you need to.  I was worried that it might be a bit creepy to use this service, but I have been pleasantly surprised at how easy, safe, and affordable this option is.
  7. Food costs can easily spiral out of control if you don’t plan ahead.  We pack a cooler and plenty of drinks and snacks for road trips.  Lunch is almost always cheaper to buy than dinner.  We like Mexican food and it is usually cheap and delicious everywhere we travel across the United States.  We also like to eat at local restaurants.  Check apps like Yelp and TripAdvisor for reviews on local restaurants and plan ahead whenever possible.
  8. Prepare a packing list and use it!  You can avoid costly prices and travel delays by packing what you need.  You don’t want to be looking for a Wal-Mart because you forgot your iPad charger cord – yes, it happened to me but never again!  I have what I call a “comprehensive packing list” and I check and double-check it before we pull out of the driveway.
  9. Alert your credit card company about your upcoming trip so you don’t lose access to needed funds.  This happened to me in Anchorage, Alaska when I tried to use a credit card at Target before we headed out on a 12 night camper van adventure.  I was glad it happened in Anchorage where I could easily call my credit card company and resolve the problem before we hit the road.
  10. Speaking of credit cards, find one that gives you some sort of cash back reward.  I am using currently using a Mastercard that gives me between 3-5% cash back whenever I use it to pay for things like gasoline, restaurants, and hotels.  I pay it off every month so it’s like getting free money just for traveling.