What is a great way to gain rich experiences and bond with your best friends? Load up the car and cruise down the highway on a road trip across the United States. If you carefully budget, you can go on an inexpensive trip that is still unforgettable. Here are some budgeting tips to help you out.

Plan Your Windshield Time

There is no rule against spontaneity in your road trip, but having a general idea of your destination and your route will save you money. Learn about the roads you’ll travel on. Are they busy freeways or winding country roads? Might the weather make certain roads impassable? If possible, avoid heavy traffic and very curvy roads, since both cut down on gas mileage (of course, if a winding road is too gorgeous to pass by, go for it). Also, download an app like GasBuddy to help you find deals on fuel.

Road from windshield during dayOf course, if your vehicle has a low mpg, you’ll have to spend a lot on gas regardless of what deals you get at the pump. Consider looking for deals on rental cars that have good fuel economy. Renting a car will also spare your own rig from an arduous trek across the nation.

Sleep on the Cheap
Staying at a hotel every night will eat up your money. Call up people you know in the areas through which you’ll travel and ask if they wouldn’t mind a few house guests for a night. Hostels and campgrounds are other affordable options.

If you find yourself in need of a dose of luxury every couple of nights, search for affordable hotel rates with an app like the one from Expedia. Also keep in mind that many hotels will offer you a cheaper rate if you walk in late in the day, since they want to fill as many rooms as possible. HotelCoupons.com publishes walk-in rates to make finding these rates easy.

Shop for Deals on Entertainment
The most enjoyable parts of your road trip, like spending time with friends and family, won’t cost a penny. But if you plan to catch a concert or show during your trip, start scouring the Internet for deals well ahead of time.

To get the real flavor of the places you’ll visit, you’ll want to see what amusement you can find locally. There might be a local band that does free shows, or your visit might coincide with a fun festival or other event.

Save Money on Food
You’ve got fuel in the car, but what about your tank? Don’t constantly stop at restaurants, but do budget a certain amount of money for stops at well-reputed local places. Resist the urge to get fast food. Instead, have a fair supply of snacks in the car. A good way to save on snacks is to shop at grocery stores, not gas stations. To get more for your money, buy large packages of items you know you’ll use.

Make sure everyone in your car knows about the budget and agrees to make the budget work. When everyone works together, your wallet will enjoy the road trip almost as much as you will.

Image via Flickr by usadifranci