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5 Tips for a Cheap Summer Road Trip

July 13, 2018

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Whether you’re moving across state lines this summer after graduation or just taking some time to cruise, chances are you’re going to find yourself in the car this summer. Here are some ways to keep it cheap and fun.

It’s all about the stereo

[caption id="attachment_5024" align="alignleft" width="300"]cheap summer road trip stereo If your car has a tape deck, you get extra summer road trip points.[/caption]

While road trip games can be fun for a bit, but you’ll want to have a few other forms of entertainment as well. Audiobooks, podcasts, and curated playlists (mix tapes anyone?) can be great ways to pass time—especially if the recording is related to what you’re seeing out the window. The good news is that you can often get these for free! Check out TIME’s list of best podcasts in 2018 for inspiration or search Spotify for road-trip playlists.

Virtual tour guides that map to your ride

Some road trips are all about getting to the destination as quickly as possible, but with others, you can stop and enjoy the sites along the way. Try a virtual tour guide with apps like Roadtrippers and GyPsy Guide, which can help you map your route and find points of interest, activities, events, and even lodging to fit a variety of budgets.

Don’t pay out-of-network ATM fees

Getting cash from an out-of-network ATM will cost you anywhere from $1.50 to $10 in fees depending on the provider. Yeck. With a Varo Bank Account you get fee-free ATM withdrawals—that means zero fees whatsoever at AllPoint ATMs which are found in all 50 states in stores like Target, Costco, and Walgreens and no out-of-network fees at other providers (though the providers itself could still charge a fee). Varo also does not have foreign transaction fees.

Save money and earn rewards on gas

Filling up your gas tank is an inevitable recurring expense on a road trip. You can use GasBuddy to estimate your cost ahead of time and to find the cheapest gas while you’re on the road. Increasing your fuel efficiency will also save you money, and making sure your tires have the proper pressure and avoiding rapid acceleration are two easy ways to start. Some bigger gas companies have gas rewards programs, which you can use to save money on your next fill up—worth looking into.

Find inexpensive lodging

Finding a cheap and safe place to sleep could be your largest expense. If you’re open to camping, that’s likely the least expensive route, particularly if you don’t mind rustic sites in federal Forest Services, Bureau of Land Management, and Wildlife Management Areas, which are often free. You can also try the app HipCamp to find camping spots or find a variety of free camping sites here.

If you’d prefer a sturdy roof over your head, the inexpensive motel and hotel chains may be your best bet. Having a AAA membership (memberships start at $56 per year) could get you a discount, and may also be a good idea in case your vehicle breaks down. AARP members (only $12 per year!) also offer discounts at many hotels and motels, and it’s a little-known secret that you don’t need to be a senior to become a member.

Are you taking a road trip this summer? We'd love to see your pics! Follow Varo's Instagram and tag us @varomoney.

Louis DeNicola is a freelance personal finance writer and credit enthusiast. You can find him on Twitter @is_lou.

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Louis DeNicola

Louis DeNicola

Louis DeNicola is a freelance finance writer based in Oakland, California. He specializes in consumer credit, personal finance, and small business finance, and loves helping people find ways to save money. In addition to Varo, Louis works with a variety of financial services firms, credit bureaus, and educational websites, including Credit Karma, Wirecutter, Funding Circle, and Experian.

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