Saturday, February 20, 2016

Frugal Rock Travel- Road Trippin' on the Cheap!

I am excited to announce a new series here on Frugal Rock: The Frugal Rock Travel Segment! The first post of this series is on the frugal road trip. I hope to post on other travel ideas throughout the year, like frugal destinations, backpacking/camping and other travel tips.  

As I mentioned in this recent post, Mr. Frugal Rock and I spent the beginning of the year on the road for a week, hoofing it (not literally) to destinations in Georgia and Florida. With gas prices being so low, and our love of road trips- it made perfect sense for us to drive and avoid the hassle of flying. 2 people, one car, 22 hours of driving (one way), and roughly 1,200 miles. What could possibly go wrong? Surprisingly little, as it turned out!

A 'sherbet sunrise, during an early start'
While I've always loved the classic American road trip- I wasn't sure how it would really measure up price wise, compared to the cost of airfare. I was particularly worried about racking up additional costs along the way. Since we were traveling for a long period of time over two days, I figured that we could end up spending more on meals and possible hotel costs.

Road trips can be a good alternative for family travel, especially when your family starts growing in number and you have to look at purchasing 3-4 plane tickets. My family is just the two of us, so while ticket prices wouldn't be THAT outrageous, my hypothesis was that we could road trip it for cheaper, while also enjoying the time together for fun and hilarity. To be fair the only thing that probably would talk me out of road trips is if it ever became more expensive than flying, so I clearly already have a 'slant'- but don't worry, I will breakdown our spending for you so you can see for yourself how it compares, and can judge for yourselves.

Cost Break Down:

$200 in gas- this came out almost exact so I rounded it up to $200 for the way there and back. Note: We had ridiculously low gas prices this January, combined with a pretty fuel efficient car, kept gas costs lower than anticipated.

$0 for meals on the road. Our goal was to not spend any money on gas station food (you can keep your dried out and stale hot dogs Citgo!) or other fast food/chain joints (what the hell is the deal with all the Cracker Barrels between here and Florida anyway??! We counted- no joke- 23. Gross.)

$46 for meal prep. So we did eat during our road trip- don't let our no fast food costs fool you! As an incurable snack-er I made sure that there were plenty of go-to munchies for the trip, as well as healthy and frugal lunch ideas.

$86 for hotel costs, 1 night on the drive. This one I'm a bit ashamed of- Mr. Frugal Rock was advocating for us sleeping in the car for a few hours and than continuing on our way. But I'll admit, it was unexpectedly cool on our drive south and I wanted a shower. Luxury won over frugality this time!

Total Cost for the Road Trip: $332
*Note, I'm not taking into account our expenses for the remainder of the trip, as in theory they would be about the same, whether we flew or drove, mainly comparing the cost of driving versus flying here!*

Flight Cost Estimator: Using Kayak (a great way to travel cheap), I was able to look for flights on a variety of airlines to try and find the best deals. The flights that matched the dates we wanted to travel ended up being about $300 a person= $600 for us total. There are ways to get cheaper flights, leave on 'off days' avoiding weekends, Mondays or Fridays, and being willing to have multiple stops en route but in viewing this, I am ready to declare the road trip, the frugal winner this time!

Traveling by car can expose you to some great views!

3 MUSTS for a Frugal Road Trip
Ready to try a road trip? Here are the three things, that can make or break your trip (or your wallet).

1. Bring your own food-  the cooler is a must...

One of the things about traveling and vacation is trying new restaurants, so you are probably already eating out more than normal. Why waste your dollars on the fast food/chain places en route? I guarantee that avoiding these places will make you feel better in the long-run as well. For our frugal road trip I stocked our cooler and snack bag with:

-Fresh fruit, grapes, apples and oranges for snacking
-trail mix and granola bars
-peanut butter/jelly and a lot of bread
-fresh veggies and hummus, for wraps
-mozzarella balls, tomatoes and basil for caprese wraps on the go
-made ahead spicy curry chicken salad

2. Avoid hotels when possible...

Obviously, didn't follow my own advice on this one! Ways you can avoid hotels, may be planning your route so that you can stop at a truck stop or camp ground to park the car and get some sleep. You can also check out vacation rental sites or couch crashing options to keep your costs lower. If you have to stop, make sure you call around. When we stopped for the night, we saw 4 hotels on the off ramp, and in calling each found a high variance in pricing between equally nice looking places. It pays to call in advance, even if it's only two minutes in advance.

3. Plan activities for your car ride!

Local library for the win!
I can honestly say that I love road trips. But, if you are going to spend 20+ hours in the car, even with your most favorite person, you better be prepared! Mr. Frugal and I went online and picked our 4 books on cd- we made it through two of them. I would highly recommend Mary Roach if you haven't read her books. She is a fascinating science author, that often focuses on the unique people behind the interesting facts she shares. We also came stocked with plenty of music (road trip playlist anyone?!) and podcasts. Since Serial just came out with their second season, we saved up the episodes we hadn't heard yet and binged listened all at once!

Are you a fan of the road trip? What's the farthest you have traveled by car? Any secrets to a good, frugal road trip?

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