Last updated: 09:00 PM ET, Tue April 07 2015

Opinion Home | Road Rules From the Road Trip Blogger

  • Michelle Bucher | April 7, 2015 9:00 PM ET

    How To Set Your Road Trip Budget

    How To Set Your Road Trip Budget

    Image courtesy of Thinkstock/Zoonar RF

    If you’ve never been on a road trip before, or are planning your first big highway trek, there are a few things to consider when planning for the journey.

    The first thing to consider is your road trip style. Will you be traveling in an RV, car, or truck? Will you be camping or staying in hotels along the way? Are you interested in doing a foodie tour, or road tripping college-style with Ramen noodles and pb&j?

    Let’s set the parameters for your road trip budget:

    • Gas cost
    • Hotel cost
    • Food costs
    • Attractions
    • Tolls and other expenses

    Gas costs: How Far Are You Going to Travel?

    I generally use Google Maps to map out the different locations we plan to visit. Once I have a full map of our entire road trip, I then have my entire estimated mileage for the journey.

    For example: a cross-country road trip will range around 7,500 miles. I like to add on a few hundred extra miles onto the total to include small things like town driving, or for those times when you get lost and drive in circles trying to get to your destination.

    Here’s how I map out our gas costs:

    Let’s estimate around 8,000 miles for your road trip, and let’s estimate that your car gets around 310 miles per tank, and that each tank costs around $50 to fill up. This puts your gas costs at around $1,290. We generally road trip with 2-3 people, which helps share the cost of gas.

    Hotel Costs

    Estimate your hotel costs based on what kind of hotels you like to stay in, and how many days you`ll be staying in hotels. If you`re road tripping on limited funds, consider camping at campgrounds along your road trip or only staying at hotels every other day. This helps cut your hotel expenses in half. Most of our road trips, we generally sleep in the car as we usually explore/nap during the daytime and drive/nap at night, so we move to our next destination quicker. This helps save a good chunk of money.

    Road Trip Tip: Don't book hotels in advance. I've discovered that not everything goes as planned on a road trip. If you book a hotel in a town, but don’t make it to that town by nightfall, you've now paid for a hotel that you can't make it to. I usually stop at a McDonalds along the way to use their free Wi-Fi to book a hotel for us. This saves us from losing a non-refundable deposit.

    Estimate Your Food Costs

    If you plan to eat out, budget around $15-$30 for your meals. When we road trip, we generally like to travel with cereal, a cooler, lunch stuff, and then budget for dining out.


    When planning your road trip, make sure to budget admission expenses to various attractions. For example: If you`re going to do the Niagara Falls Maid of the Mist, budget for parking and the boat cost.

    Prepare for Tolls

    This was something that caught us off guard when road tripping around the east coast. It seemed like every half hour we hit a new toll. Some tolls ranged from around $0.10-$4.

    Road Trip Tip: if you’re road tripping around the east coast, or an area where you know there are going to be tolls, travel with a bag of change. We generally stop at a bank and get a roll of quarters and dimes to have in the car with us.

    Lastly, make sure to include a buffer of cash into your road trip budget. Things don`t always go as planned, and sometimes you have to plan for unexpected instances. We`re generally really strict with our spending money, but once we hit the open road, things change and we sometimes forget all about our road trip budget.


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Michelle Bucher Road Rules From the Road Trip Blogger

Michelle Bucher Michelle Bucher is an avid road tripper, travel writer and social media marketer from Vancouver, British Columbia. Michelle has spent the past six years on various road trip adventures around North America. She's road tripped through 48 states, 10 provinces and several other countries. Michelle runs a fun travel blog,, showcasing stories from her random road trip adventures.
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