Blasting your favorite tunes on the open road with the wind in your hair feels like utter freedom. However, your wallet may tell you a different story. The cost of a road trip can add up quickly. Here are a few handy tips to keep your inner road warrior budget-friendly.

1. Sleep for Free

Spending night after night in a hotel room will kill your cash stash. Instead, opt to camp in dispersed campsites. Dispersed camping is free; however sites lack any basic amenities such as a toilet or water source, so come prepared. Always practice Leave No Trace and be sure to pack out any waste.

If you aren’t a camper, but still itch for a little adventure, try Couchsurfing. Couchsurfing is a free network for travelers where you can stay at someone’s home for free. Keep in mind that Couchsurfing isn’t meant to be used as a place for people to crash for free, it’s a cultural exchange network where people aim to connect locals with travelers. Go exploring with your Couchsurfing host, or bring a small gift from your hometown to show your appreciation.

2. Set a Food Budget

When on the road, it’s easy to get caught up in eating at every roadside diner and burrito joint. However, all those greasy burgers add up fast. On your next road trip, set a limit on how many times, if ever, you’ll eat out. Cook your meals instead. Cheap, quick meal ideas include canned goods, instant mashed potatoes with frozen veggies and cheese, sandwiches, bagels, pasta, and more. You can get as creative as you would like.

Pick up fresh fruits and veggies when possible. Consider checking out local markets and produce stands if you’re traveling during the summer months. You’ll not only save a few bucks by buying directly from farmers, but you’ll feel healthier too.

3. Find a Watering Hole

When you purchase disposable plastic water bottles, you not only hurt the environment but your wallet as well. Before you hit the road, consider using a reusable water bottle with a large jug of water or dromedary bag for your adventures. When the well gets low, you can often fill up at truck stops and gas stations for free or a couple of dollars. Simply Google around or ask an attendant at the station.

4. Buy an Annual Parks Pass

If you plan on park hopping during your road trip, buy an annual parks pass. This year, the entry fee for many of our national parks rose. Instead of paying by the day, snag an annual pass instead, which is the cost of a day pass at several of our national parks. Colorado State Parks also have an annual pass that would certainly be worth the investment.

5. Set It to Cruise

Save on gas by activating your cruise control on long stretches of highway. With cruise control on, your vehicle keeps a steady pace instead of varying over the course of the drive. This means you’ll spend less time accelerating, which saves heavily on gas. It might not be noticeable at first, but over time you’ll find that your tank lasts longer.

Road trips offer a chance to explore the remote areas of the wilderness, experience some kooky road side stops, and truly see where you are traveling. They don’t have to be expensive endeavors and make for a super budget-friendly adventure option.

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