Road trips are about having fun with a few friends, setting off on a long journey and having some great memories once you get there.

But it’s not a lot of fun if your drive hits you hard in your bank account, so saving money is a great way to make sure you have the most enjoyable road trip possible.

From planning your trip to making a packed lunch, here are five simple ways to save money when you next hit the road with your friends.

Plan your route out before you set off

You probably know what your destination is – I say probably because part of the fun of a road trip is that you can tweak this while you’re driving. However, you also need to know how you’re getting there, so you can plan your journey in a way that keeps your costs low.

The reason this helps you save money is pretty straightforward – taking the longest route will use the most fuel, costing you the most money.

Googling how to get to your destination before you set off is step one of your route planning – it will tell you the both the quickest and the cheapest route. Then take this information out on the road via a satnav, Google Maps, or an app.

One thing to keep in mind is that you might want to spend a little more money on your journey to have a better trip – taking the scenic route could cost more money, but it will reward you with some nice memories.

country road
Credit: Wikimedia

Check your vehicle before you drive

It’s what you’re taught to do as part of learning to drive and it remains important forever, particularly if you’re heading off on a road trip – it’s checking your car before a long journey, to make sure it’s fit for purpose and doesn’t turn into a money pit.

Fuel and accommodation are traditionally the biggest guaranteed expenses of a road trip, but they pale in comparison to how much your vehicle will cost you if it breaks down.

The obvious thing to do is to review your most recent MOT and check the advisories – if you’ve not had them addressed then now is the time to do so. Because while this will cost you money in the short term, it could save you a huge amount in the long run.

My advice is to get roadside cover before you drive – if you don’t already have it.

Optimise your fuel use

Fuel is a cost you can’t get away from but you can reduce the amount of money you have to spend on it. By optimising your fuel use you can both spend less on diesel/petrol and get more out of what you do buy.

Fuel is one of the biggest guaranteed expenses on a road trip and I can’t emphasise this enough – the alternative is using public transport and that’s not something I recommend.

If you use a work car for your road trip then you might be able to use a fuel card and get discounts – iCompario covers the sort of things you can expect to get. However, if you take a personal vehicle then the best money saving advice I can give you for your fuel is to avoid buying it from a motorway service station.

Another top tip for optimising your fuel use is to drive at the right speed. For example, the AA advises that if you drive at 70 mph then you’ll use 9% more fuel than if you’re travelling at 60 mph.

Credit: PXFuel

Consider alternative accommodation

Part of the fun of a road trip is staying somewhere new. What’s not fun is having to spend more than you should on your accommodation and you can avoid it by considering alternative places to lay your head to rest.

Put simply, hotels are expensive, particularly if you turn up on the night and book a room without any advance warning.

There are a few types of alternative accommodation you can use, such as staying with friends and family, couch surfing, or camping.

A great thing about saying no to a hotel is that the cheapest option could actually be the most fun – camping under the stars lets you connect with nature and offers the chance to get closer to your pals as you sit around a fire. Just make sure you camp in a place that you’re allowed to stay!

Bring your own food and drink

If your journey lasts for more than an hour (and it doesn’t then it’s a pretty poor excuse for a road trip) then you’ll need to pack some food and drink, so that you have the energy to keep driving.

Roadside food and service station treats might sound like a good idea but they’re crazy expensive – who really feels happy paying £5 for a sandwich you could have made for less than £1?

You can save yourself the pain of paying £5 for a mediocre sandwich by doing your own packed lunches and sorting out snacks for your trip. This also gives you the chance to make healthier choices, so you can save some other the other pounds!

A great idea to bring you and your crew closer together is to get everyone to make a meal for everyone – after all, variety is the spice of life, so you might discover a new, tasty treat courtesy of one of your pals.

Credit: Wikipedia

Recommended reading: Culture in Liverpool, A Travel Guide for First Time Visitors

I’ve given you five great and simple ways that you can keep the costs down on your next road trip.

You may be doing some of these things already (and that’s great). However, by putting all of them into practice you’ll have a little more cash for the most important part of your trip – having fun!