How to Save Money on a Family Road Trip

How to Save Money on a Family Road Trip and other road trip tips.

Planning a road trip with kids? Here are the three best ways to save money on a road trip. Plus a couple extra road trip tips that will keep you sane.


We’ve done it several times. In fact, we’ve crossed the country three times with little ones. Yes, you’re going to threaten to turn the car around a time or two. But it’s totally worth it for the memories that are made.


Road Trip Money Saving Tips


Our family traveled more than 3000 miles in a week’s time this summer for our big fat Canadian move — and doing it frugally was our top priority.  So how did we do it?  I’m glad you asked.  Without further ado, the Bohemian Bowman’s top tips for a road trip with a big family.


1. Stay with friends.


How to Save Money on a Family Road Trip and other road trip tips.

This one thing can save you hundreds of dollars on a long road trip.   If it’s practical, map your route and stops according to friends who are willing to put you up.  We stayed nearly half of our nights on the road at the mercy and hospitality of others.  And more of those than not I only knew from internet friendships!


In 2013 we took an epic road trip that included 13 stops. We spent only one of those nights in a hotel! We have, literally, saved thousands of dollars on our three cross-country road trips staying with family, friends, friends of friends, and internet friends.


How to save money on a road trip.


It’s true, staying with a host rarely affords the comfort and privacy that a hotel would, but it’s a lovely communal, stretching experience in our culture of selfishness and individuality.  And it saves you on food and lodging for a night, as it generally includes free dinner in addition to the standard continental breakfast. :)


2. Picnic for lunch.


Road Trip Tips


Not only does packing a picnic every day save you money on your road trip, it’s almost always more healthy than hitting up the drive-thru.


You can make this as complicated or simple as you like.  Personally, we went the peanut butter and honey route every day.  I didn’t want to have to worry about keeping things like condiments, cheese, or lunch meat cool during the day or finding space for them, so peanut butter was our preferred sandwich.  With a side of water and some trail mix.


3. Don’t go to McDonalds.


Road Trip Tips

Just trust me. (<- click for embarrassing bathroom story)


4. Splurge on the suite.


Road Trip Tips

Saving money on a road trip for a big family can be tough. Hotels won’t typically house more than 5 people in one room for safety reasons, but never you fear – there’s more out there in the big wide world than just connecting rooms.


If you have 6 or more people in your family, stay in a suite. Suites not only give you at least two rooms to stretch out in, depending on the quality of the digs, you’ll also get at least a kitchenette or possibly even a full kitchen.  Which can save you even more money if you choose to cook your own dinner.  And the best part? Suites are almost always cheaper than booking two adjoining rooms.  Crazy, eh?  Do it.


5. Stop for the scenic moments.


Road Trip Tips

You can’t make all the stops and detours you’d like on a road trip, believe me I know.  But make the best of what you can do.  If you’re like us, it’s easy to focus too much on pushing your nose to the asphalt grind each day, pushing, pushing to cover more ground.  Don’t let the trip become a blur in the rear-view mirror. Make at least a couple of scenic stops to stretch your legs and your camera clicker.





How to save money on a family road trip. Three tips that can save you hundreds of dollars!



  1. This is brilliant. Road trips growing up in my family of eight always looked a lot like this, including the PB and the scenic routes. I just wish my dad would have thought about booking a suite. We were always crammed into a small motel room [usually with green shag carpet and orange curtains], sleeping bags covering every inch of space!!

    • Jessica says:

      I think they’re a lot more picky these days about “safety regulations”. We found one place (of pretty low quality) that let us all stay in one room, but they admitted that they weren’t supposed to. Lol.

  2. Our family of 6 is not that big, but one thing we have found that has helped is to travel w/a cot. We also do crazy things like bring our crock pot! I’m not sure it’s addressed in the rules of the hotel, but we find it’s an easy way to toss a meal in to cook while we’re gone for the day and then have a hot dinner when we return.

  3. 2traveldads says:

    You’re just like us!! Correct with the booking a suite. We actually prefer staying in Fairfield Inns and getting or using our Marriott Rewards points because it’s cheaper and we’ll have the space. And staying is friends is always fun and totally stretches the dollar and your personal boundaries.

  4. Love the idea of staying with friends to save $$$. We were only able to stay with friends one night on our cross country move, but it still save us money. I’m hoping to put that tip into practice for my next big road trip next year.

  5. I like the tip about packing in a picnic lunch, it is fun and a great healthy option and also you end up saving some money in the bargain. All nice pointers for economizing with compromising on your road trip.

  6. Those tips are really great! It’s also what we do – buying our food in local shops and make a picnic, saying with local people,… Instead of renting a car we hitchhike but I’m not sure if you would easily get a lift with 4 kids :) Of course I read the embarrassing bathroom story. Poor you (but I couldn’t help but giggle a little, sorry :) )

  7. We always make egg salad sandwiches for our road trips. Always fun crossing borders with smelly sandwiches in the car too :)

  8. Awesome tips! Definitely avoid the McD’s. Picnics are so much better!


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