How to Plan and Budget for the Perfect Road Trip

Use smart strategies to cut road trip expenses and track vacation spending with mobile banking

If your idea of the ultimate vacation includes open highways and offbeat attractions, then check out our tips on budgeting for a road trip. The cost of taking a road trip can vary depending on food costs, lodging options, attraction fees and the price of fuel, but setting up a road trip budget in advance can help you minimize expenses without sacrificing comfort and fun. Then, once you've made the budget for your road trip, you can use mobile banking to keep track of your expenses while you're on the go. Open a personal checking account at Citizens Bank and use our mobile banking app to review transactions, transfer money and set up account alerts. It's a simple, convenient way to keep track of your money wherever the road takes you.

Plan your destinations and fuel stops before making a road trip budget

Road trip expenses will vary greatly depending on where you're headed and how much time you plan to spend traveling. Consider planning your trip around two or three main attractions and friends, family or sites you want to see along the way. Remember that you don't need to go far from home to have a great experience. For example, New York City residents could travel north to the Finger Lakes, while Bostonians could venture up to Burlington, Vermont. No matter where you go, it's a good idea to estimate how much fuel you'll need so you can factor it into your road trip budget. This fuel cost calculator from AAA can help - just enter your starting city, destination and the make, model and year of your vehicle for an estimate based on current fuel price data.

While you're on the road, you can maximize your miles per gallon by taking these steps when possible and appropriate:

  • Keep your tires properly inflated.
  • Run the air conditioning sparingly if possible.
  • Avoid sudden stops when possible.
  • Accelerate gradually.
  • Don't speed.
  • Use cruise control on long, straight stretches in good weather.

It's good to plan in advance, but keep in mind road trip expenses can end up being higher than anticipated if gas prices change while you're on the road. That's why it's a good idea to have your co-pilot use a smartphone app to search for cheap gas prices before you need to stop. You can also use the Citizens Bank mobile banking app to keep track of how fuel expenses are affecting your overall road trip budget. If funds are low, you can transfer money from a savings account to your personal checking account so you can keep your tank - and your budget - from running on empty.

Schedule a tune up to save on your road trip costs

It may seem overly cautious, but making sure that your car is in tip-top condition could help you save big on road trip expenses. About a week or two before departure, take your vehicle to a reputable mechanic, explain your road trip plans and ask them to inspect the vehicle and address any underlying concerns. Spending money on repairs ahead of time is far preferable to your car breaking down during the trip. Even if your car doesn't need extensive work, it's still a good idea to have your mechanic look at your tires, belts, oil, batteries, air conditioning and brakes to make sure they're ready to undergo the rigors of a long car trip.

Reduce road trip expenses - pack snacks and eat local

No matter where your road trip takes you, you're bound to be tempted by fast food restaurants and convenience stores along the way. Buying snack packs and combo meals can add a lot to the cost of a road trip, so it pays to plan ahead. Before you head out, stop by the grocery store to pick up your favorite drinks and snacks, as well as supplies for simple meals like sandwiches. Pack everything in a cooler the night before you leave, and you'll be ready to eat on the go.

If you're planning to take a longer trip, you may want to stop for hot meals along the way. Be sure to make room for these meals in your road trip budget and use mobile banking to confirm your account balance before you stop. One way to stretch your money is by finding restaurants off the beaten path. Local eateries may offer better prices and more variety than national chains, so don't be afraid to explore. You may end up finding a new favorite place!

Save on road trip expenses with creative lodging strategies

Unless you're just planning a day trip, you'll want to make sure that your road trip budget includes lodging. Fortunately, there are a range of options for travelers that fit most budgets. Many national parks and recreation areas offer free camping for families who prefer to sleep in tents or RVs. You can search for, and book, camp sites at to make sure you'll have a spot when you arrive. If you would rather sleep indoors, research bed and breakfasts along your route and at your destination to find inexpensive, cozy accommodations. Hotels can also offer good deals depending on the season and the day, but it's best to book ahead of time whenever possible. Use your favorite travel site to look for low rates, especially if you're traveling in the off season.

Use the Citizens Bank mobile banking app to keep track of your road trip expenses

You can save big on your road trip budget if you plan ahead and use smart travel strategies. A Citizens Bank personal checking account combined with our mobile banking app will give you the tools you need to budget for a road trip and keep track of spending while you're on the road. Open a checking account today or speak with a customer service representative to learn what our mobile banking app can do for you.


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