How To Save on the Road | Tips and Tricks
I travel a lot. I'm lucky to call Denver home and within ten hours, there is SO much to see. You have Yellowstone and the Tetons to the north, Arches, Canyonlands, Great Basin, Capitol Reef, and Zion to the West. The Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Taos, and the culture of New Mexico to the south. You have the Rocky Mountains, the Great Sand Dunes, Mesa Verde, Black Canyon of the Gunnison, all within a few hours. I used to look at a two hour trip as far. Now, if its under 10 hours, I'm stoked and I can't help but think about how fun those long seemingly endless roads are.
So here are some ways I've learned to save money on these roads, because unless you work remotely, traveling can get expensive.
Save money. A little obvious, but yes, you have to save. Bartenders never have steady incomes so I've learned to save to be able to cover my rent, as well as my road trips that I take during the slow months at work.
Pre-plan. Websites and apps like Roadtripper make visualizing your trip easy, and they help you calculate gas costs for what vehicle you are taking. For my last trip, my friend and I had three cars to choose from. A Toyota Tacoma, and a Land Rover Disco (both with beefy tires that cut down on fuel mileage) or a tiny Hyundai Elantra (that averages out at 35+mpg). We opted for small space in order to save money on gas.
Pack your food. Stopping for three meals a day on the road gets expensive. For two people you could be spending up to $100 a day, especially if you are in touristy areas where prices are high. For my last road trip, we wrote out a list of foods we would want to cook on the road, including what we would eat on each day. This allowed us to pack a cooler with perishable items that we would eat earlier in the week (potato salad, lunch meat, chickpeas, eggs, CHEESE), and save nonperishable items for the end of the week (potatoes, beans, quinoa, pasta). This is what our dinner meal plan looked like for 8 days on the road. These are all v. obviously carb heavy meals as we were hiking every day and hello I love carbs.
Chicken tacos with freeze dried refried beans, cheese, sour cream, lettuce, tomato, chicken (precooked), avocado, corn tortilla.
Thanksgiving! Chicken, sweet potato soufflé, stuffing, corn on the cob.
Grilled cheese with tomato bisque soup.
Loaded baked potatoes with chicken, cheese, sour cream, green salsa, and corn on the cob.
Left over day! (This worked out really well after a long day of hiking as we wanted nothing but to eat and then to go to sleep so we didn't even pull out a stove and just ate potato salad and chips and naan bread).
Pasta (throw some sautéed basil or kale in there for some extra greenery).
Quinoa, black beans, fried sweet potatoes with avocado.
GasBuddy will give you a price range of gas in your area, and it provides a map so you can search along your route to see what gas prices are. I learned this the hard way when driving from Vegas into California when gas jumped a dollar and I spent $70 to fill my tanks. In Colorado, small mountain town gas is more expensive than gas in bigger cities like Denver and Grand Junction. If you know where you are going, you can decide to stop early to get gas, even if you're still at half a tank, because its cheaper.
Ultimate CG is what I use to find BLM and National Forest land to camp on. You can save $20-$40 a day by camping on public land. Ultimate Campground shows you what type of land it is (BLM, NF, private campground, National Park, State Park, etc), the total number of sites, whether there are toilets, showers, running water, reservations, as well as milage as the crow flies.
Showers can get expensive where there are tourists and crowds, consider stopping at a truck stop to cut down on spending $8 to shower. Also consider showering with you friends. While you're soaping up, your friend can be rinsing off AND you save water. Win.
Look into companies like Hipcamp, which if approved for their field scout program will allow you to roam around america to stay in cool local locations, as well as get paid to photograph the properties. I always explain hipcamp as airbnb for camping (though every once in a while there is a cool cabin or yurt!). They pay you $75 for every property you stay at, and more if you write about your experience!
Obviously being a bartender works in my favor, my work is incredibly lenient with the amount of time I take off of work (a lot). But I also work my booty off when I am at work. Two weeks ago I had 8 days off to roam around the desert, upon my return, I worked 9 days straight. #worthit.