How to plan a frugal road trip

Vintage Ad #1203-This Cheap Hotel Does Not Compute - Ntnl Geo July 1978 by jbcurio/flickr
Vintage Ad #1203-This Cheap Hotel Does Not Compute – Ntnl Geo July 1978 by jbcurio/flickrTraveling may seem like an indulgence you just can’t afford. But there are ways you can cut corners without sacrificing fun. Here are some tips to help make your upcoming trip both frugal and fabulous.

Join an Auto Club

If you need to keep expenses in check while you travel, you may want to invest in an auto club membership. For about $70 a year you can get a membership that includes emergency 24-hour road service as well as discounts at popular hotels, museums, theme parks, restaurants and attractions. Some auto insurance companies even offer some free services if you are a policyholder. For more information about subscription auto club services visit the American Automobile Associations website at or RV owners can look at what the Good Sam Club ( has to offer.

Sign-up to House Swap

Since accommodations while out on the road are usually one of the greatest expenses you’ll incur while traveling, house swapping has become one of the hottest trends for cost-conscious travelers. Homeowners can register with a company and then trade homes with other individuals around the country or the globe. is one company that has over 40,000 listings in over 100 countries and promises you can “live like a local, not a tourist.” Check out their website for prices, listings and FAQs about the benefits.

Stay at a Hostel

Barnacles Hostel in Dublin by Barnacles Budget Accommodation
Barnacles Hostel in Dublin by Barnacles Budget Accommodation
Hostels are hotels that offer shared living areas for travelers on a budget. If you don’t mind having slightly less privacy than what you’d get staying at an overpriced hotel, or if you really enjoy meeting fellow travelers in a safe environment, then a hostel might be the type of lodging you’ve been seeking. It used to be that hostels were solely designed for students gallivanting around the globe. But as times have changed so has the concept of the hostel, and they now accommodate most anyone of any age.

Hostel International, the leader in hostel accommodations, offers lodges that are friendly, clean and secure. Some hostels now provide rooms for private families and couples and most have fully-equipped shared kitchens and dining areas, laundry facilities, storage and common areas for relaxing and socializing with other hostellers. Stays usually cost $15-$20 per person, per night and you must have a membership with Hostelling International to take advantage of their facilities. For more information or to learn about membership you can visit Hostelling International’s website at

Camping Equipment

If you’re a traveler who’s on a serious budget and you don’t mind “roughing it,” then packing a tent, sleeping bag or cot and cooking utensils for camping may be the way to go. Most campsites charge a nominal fee of $10-$20 per night. If you’re not up for buying new equipment, look into picking up your camping items for a bargain on eBay or Craigslist.

Get a Folding Bike

Auto-Mini Folding Bike by Joey Volpe
Auto-Mini Folding Bike by Joey Volpe
If bike riding is a favorite hobby but you lack a bike rack for your car, you may want to investigate the idea of a folding bike. Weighing about 25 pounds, these bikes can easily fold up into the trunk of a compact car. Companies like Dahon make a wide variety of folding bikes, some replete with attachments that can accommodate travel bags or panniers. Since brand new folding bikes can be a bit pricey, look on Craigslist or at yard sales for the best deals. (

Purchase a GPS

A Global Positioning System (GPS) is one of the best investments drivers can make. Besides providing you with the fastest and most convenient routes to your destination, many GPS systems now offer color maps and pre-programmed directions to restaurants, hotels and major attractions. Most automobile units have voice prompts that will call out driving instructions. A basic automobile GPS costs about $150, while models with all the bells and whistles will run about $300-$400. The least expensive way to go, however, is to add GPS to your smartphone and buy a dash holder you can snap your cell into while you’re driving; this also precludes theft of an expensive system!There’s nothing wrong with being economical when planning an adventure. In all honesty, hunting around for a great bargain before you set off can also be lots of fun. With thoughtful planning, a touch of creativity and perhaps some inexpensive equipment, you’re guaranteed to have a fun-filled road trip!

About the author
Michael Thomason is an insurance consultant and travel blogger, and he recommends an online auto insurance comparison if you are contemplating a move. For instance, if you live in Florida you can instantly request a Maryland auto insurance quote online.