Planning the Ultimate Family Road Trip This Summer

May 22, 2019 · 6 minute read

We’re here to help! First and foremost, SoFi Learn strives to be a beneficial resource to you as you navigate your financial journey. Read more We develop content that covers a variety of financial topics. Sometimes, that content may include information about products, features, or services that SoFi does not provide. We aim to break down complicated concepts, loop you in on the latest trends, and keep you up-to-date on the stuff you can use to help get your money right. Read less

Planning the Ultimate Family Road Trip This Summer

Summertime is nearly here, which can only mean one thing: It’s time to take a vacation. And not just any vacation. It’s time to take a family road trip.

Seriously, now is the time to hit the open road for a trip as you’ll have plenty of good company along the way. According to MMGY Global’s 2017 to 2018 Portrait of American Travelers study , 39% of U.S. leisure travel in 2016 included a road trip.

The spike in roadtrips isn’t just rooted in love for the open road. The MMGY study reveals it’s mostly a matter of convenience; it’s nice to be in control of the route, and that’s never more true than when you’re in the driver’s seat.

And of course, the fact that it often costs less than an international trip is a perk, too. Because here’s the thing: You really don’t have to spend a fortune on your road trip this summer. It can be tempting to splurge, splurge, splurge because you’re saving money by not buying plane tickets.

But there are plenty of ways to have a memorable road trip without breaking the bank or taking out a family planning loan. Here’s how a list of a few road trip essentials can help you save a little dough as you put the pedal to the metal.

Planning the Road Trip Route of Your Dreams

The first step in planning one glorious road trip is picking your route. Ask your family for their feelings on driving coast-to-coast, road tripping along the entire west coast, or something in-between. If you need a few road trip ideas for some of the best drives in America, Road Trip USA has you covered.

You could also consider picking a theme instead of a route like seeing all the state capitals, visiting your favorite ballparks for a few games, or snapping a photo in every national park in Utah. It’s your trip, so you’re in control!

Once you pick a route, you can then figure out the right time to depart. For example, if you’re taking a southern route from east-to-west across the country, you may want to head out in late spring or early summer as July in Alabama, Texas, Louisiana, and the rest of the southern border can be quite unforgiving with the heat and humidity.

And once you finalize your path, you can also start picking out all the roadside attractions you absolutely must see, along with hotels to stay at, and places to eat. This way, you can then start tallying your daily budget for entertainment, accommodations, food, and gas.

Ready for a Better Banking Experience?

Open a SoFi Checking and Savings Account and start earning 1% APY on your cash!

Making a Gas Station Plan

Since you’ve already planned your route, you can also plan your gas station stops as well. To help you calculate the fuel cost of your trip, head over to The U.S. Department of Energy’s website and plug your information into its nifty calculator .

From there, you could try tracking down the cheapest gas on your route by using sites and apps like
GasBuddy . On the app, pop in a location and it will tell you the closest—and cheapest—fill-up locations.

Picking the Perfect Car for Your Road Trip

Here’s one of the best parts of going on a road trip: You can drive any car you’d like, so long as you’re willing to pay for it. For a road trip, drivers either have the option of renting a car or driving their own. Driving a rental could be a good option because you won’t be liable for general wear and tear on the vehicle during the journey.

AARP broke down just how much you’d be saving by taking rental vs. driving your own car this way: The IRS allows people to claim 58 cents per mile for business miles driven in their own car as a deduction. This accounts for wear and tear and more. That means, according to the IRS, your car depreciates in value at 58 cents per mile driven.

So, at the end of a 1,000-mile road trip, your car is now worth $580 less than it was before. And if you drive the 2,789 miles from New York to Los Angeles that means your car will be worth $1,617 less than when your journey began.

Furthermore, with a rental you may be able to save by choosing a car with better fuel efficiency than your own, so you can save at the pump and preserve your own car’s current value at the same time.

Creating a Food Menu and Budget

One thing that can quickly eat into your road trip budget is food. Because you’re on the road, and likely far away from a kitchen, prepared foods will likely become your mainstay. But, just because you’re dining out a lot doesn’t mean you can’t stick to a budget.

One of the easiest ways to save on food is to try and build meals in with your hotel stays along the way. Some chains offer complimentary continental breakfasts and snacks with your stay.

If you aren’t staying somewhere that includes breakfast, you can instead head to the grocery store for a loaf of bread and some orange juice to keep meal costs down.

Beyond free breakfast, try to create a per-meal budget and stick to it for the entire trip. According to Value Penguin , which analyzed data from the Consumer Expenditure Survey , Americans spend an average of $33 per day on food when on a vacation within the U.S. That breaks down to $11 per person per meal.

As it found, vacationers spend about $27 at restaurants each day of their vacation and about $6 on food they prepare themselves. So, if you can, try to pack as much food as possible to save. You could even consider limiting yourself to one meal out per day.

Having a Road Trip Emergency Plan

A roadside emergency can be a huge setback on a road trip. Be it a flat tire, an overheating engine, or a set of keys getting locked inside the car, having to pull over and call a tow truck could cost big bucks. This is why it could be a good idea to invest in AAA membership prior to your departure.

A membership at AAA starts at around $60 per year . This makes you eligible for 24/7 roadside assistance, and could even save you money along the way thanks to its exclusive discounts for hotels, dining, entertainment, and more.

Don’t Forget to Have Some Fun

There are a few other things you should do before a road trip that have nothing to do with money but could still prove to be invaluable. That includes creating the perfect road trip playlist, picking out a few road trip games to play along the way, and ensuring your camera is fully charged to capture all the stops along the way. This is a vacation after all.

No Matter Where You Go, SoFi Checking and Savings is Here for You

No matter which route you take, or who you take on your road trip, know you’ll never be logging miles alone as long as you have SoFi Checking and Savings®.

With a SoFi Checking and Savings online bank account, withdrawing cash is fee-free at 55,000+ ATMs worldwide. Plus, members can earn up to 4.20% APY.

Looking to hit the open road? SoFi Checking and Savings® is with you at every mile.

External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third-party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
SoFi® Checking and Savings is offered through SoFi Bank, N.A. ©2022 SoFi Bank, N.A. All rights reserved. Member FDIC. Equal Housing Lender.
SoFi Money® is a cash management account, which is a brokerage product, offered by SoFi Securities LLC, member
SoFi Securities LLC is an affiliate of SoFi Bank, N.A. SoFi Money Debit Card issued by The Bancorp Bank.
SoFi has partnered with Allpoint to provide consumers with ATM access at any of the 55,000+ ATMs within the Allpoint network. Consumers will not be charged a fee when using an in-network ATM, however, third party fees incurred when using out-of-network ATMs are not subject to reimbursement. SoFi’s ATM policies are subject to change at our discretion at any time.
SoFi members with direct deposit can earn up to 4.20% annual percentage yield (APY) interest on Savings account balances (including Vaults) and up to 1.20% APY on Checking account balances. There is no minimum direct deposit amount required to qualify for these rates. Members without direct deposit will earn 1.20% APY on all account balances in Checking and Savings (including Vaults). Interest rates are variable and subject to change at any time. These rates are current as of 4/25/2023. There is no minimum balance requirement. Additional information can be found at
Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

All your finances.
All in one app.

SoFi QR code, Download now, scan this with your phone’s camera

All your finances.
All in one app.

App Store rating

SoFi iOS App, Download on the App Store
SoFi Android App, Get it on Google Play

TLS 1.2 Encrypted
Equal Housing Lender