Summer is the perfect season for road trips. The weather is warm, the days are long, and there’s a sense of adventure in the air. But with rising costs, many travelers are looking for ways to enjoy a memorable summer road trip without breaking the bank. This guide will provide you with tips, destinations, and strategies for planning cheap road trips, ensuring you have a fantastic time on a budget.

What Are Frugal Road Trips?

Frugal road trips are about maximizing fun while minimizing expenses. Where to go this summer They involve careful planning, cost-effective choices, and a bit of creativity. The goal is to experience the freedom and excitement of the open road without spending a fortune. This includes choosing affordable destinations, finding cheap accommodations, and being mindful of travel expenses like gas and food.

How to Plan a Cheap Road Trip This Summer

1. Choose the Right Destination

Selecting a budget-friendly destination is the first step in planning a frugal road trip. Here are some tips to help you choose:

  • National Parks: Many national parks offer affordable entry fees and a wealth of outdoor activities. Parks like Yellowstone, Yosemite, and the Great Smoky Mountains provide stunning scenery and numerous hiking and camping opportunities.
  • State Parks and Forests: Often less crowded and cheaper than national parks, state parks and forests are great alternatives.
  • Nearby Cities and Towns: Explore smaller cities and towns close to your home. These locations often have hidden gems like local museums, parks, and eateries that are budget-friendly.

2. Plan Your Route

Efficient route planning can save you both time and money. Use tools like Google Maps or Roadtrippers to plot the most direct and scenic routes. Avoid toll roads and heavy traffic areas to reduce fuel costs. Consider traveling during off-peak hours to save on gas and avoid congestion.

3. Budget-Friendly Accommodations

Accommodation is one of the biggest expenses on a road trip. Here are some ways to save:

  • Camping: Campgrounds are significantly cheaper than hotels. National and state parks often have affordable camping sites. Websites like and can help you find and book campsites.
  • Hostels and Motels: Look for budget-friendly hostels or motels. They offer basic amenities at a fraction of the cost of hotels.
  • Vacation Rentals: Websites like Airbnb and Vrbo can offer affordable lodging options, especially if you’re traveling with a group.

Inexpensive Destinations for a Summer Road Trip

1. National Parks

  • Yellowstone National Park: With geysers, hot springs, and abundant wildlife, Yellowstone is a nature lover’s paradise. Entry fees are reasonable, and there are numerous camping options.
  • Great Smoky Mountains National Park: This park offers stunning mountain views, diverse wildlife, and over 800 miles of hiking trails. Entry is free, making it a perfect budget destination.
  • Zion National Park: Known for its dramatic red cliffs and challenging hikes, Zion is a must-visit. The park has several affordable campgrounds.

2. State Parks and Scenic Byways

  • Blue Ridge Parkway: This scenic drive through the Appalachian Mountains offers breathtaking views and numerous hiking trails. There are many affordable camping spots along the route.
  • Redwood National and State Parks: Home to the tallest trees in the world, these parks offer free entry and numerous budget-friendly camping options.

3. Off-the-Beaten-Path Towns

  • Asheville, North Carolina: Known for its vibrant arts scene and stunning mountain scenery, Asheville is a great budget destination. There are numerous free outdoor activities and affordable dining options.
  • Santa Fe, New Mexico: With its rich history and beautiful desert landscapes, Santa Fe offers a unique and affordable getaway. Enjoy free art galleries and affordable local cuisine.

How to Travel Cheap

1. Save on Fuel

Fuel can be one of the biggest expenses on a road trip. Here are some tips to save on gas:

  • Drive Efficiently: Maintain a steady speed, avoid rapid acceleration, and use cruise control on highways.
  • Carpool: If traveling with friends, carpooling can significantly reduce fuel costs.
  • Use Gas Apps: Apps like GasBuddy can help you find the cheapest gas stations along your route.

2. Pack Smart

Packing the right supplies can save you money on the road:

  • Food and Snacks: Bring a cooler with drinks, snacks, and meals to avoid eating out frequently. Pack a portable stove or grill for cooking at campsites.
  • Camping Gear: If you’re planning to camp, bring your own gear to avoid rental fees.

3. Take Advantage of Free Activities

Look for free or low-cost activities at your destination:

  • Hiking and Biking: Many parks and recreational areas offer free trails.
  • Museums and Cultural Sites: Some museums offer free admission on certain days.
  • Local Events: Check local event calendars for free concerts, festivals, and other activities.

Where to Go This Summer: Top Picks

1. From Seattle

  • Mount Rainier National Park: Just a short drive from Seattle, this park offers stunning views, hiking, and camping.
  • Olympic National Park: With its diverse ecosystems, from mountains to rainforests to coastline, Olympic is a great destination.
  • Leavenworth, Washington: This Bavarian-style village offers a unique getaway with affordable lodging and plenty of outdoor activities.

2. Near Major Cities

  • Chicago: Head to Indiana Dunes National Park for beautiful beaches and hiking trails.
  • Los Angeles: Visit Joshua Tree National Park for its unique desert landscapes and rock formations.
  • New York City: Take a trip to the Catskill Mountains for hiking, camping, and scenic drives.

Cheap Holidays and Getaways

For those looking to travel further afield, consider these inexpensive holiday destinations:

  • Mexico: Affordable flights and low-cost accommodations make Mexico a great budget destination. Explore cultural sites, beaches, and vibrant cities.
  • Portugal: Known for its affordable prices, beautiful scenery, and delicious food, Portugal is a great European destination on a budget.
  • Thailand: With its low cost of living, Thailand offers beautiful beaches, rich culture, and affordable accommodations.


Planning a frugal road trip this summer is all about making smart choices and being resourceful. By choosing budget-friendly destinations, planning your route carefully, and taking advantage of free activities, you can have an unforgettable adventure without spending a fortune. Whether you’re exploring national parks, discovering hidden gems in small towns, or enjoying the great outdoors, a cheap road trip can be a rewarding and memorable experience. So pack your bags, hit the road, and enjoy the journey!

By Jack

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