Road tripping is a fantastic way to see your own country. North America especially was built with road trip culture in mind, and the fantastic roads and endless things to do around them is proof. However, things can add up pretty quickly, so it’s always wise to keep a budget on your road trip adventure.
You and I both know you don’t want your budget to limit your adventure, but don’t worry – it doesn’t have to. You just have to be open to maneuvering your budget. It doesn’t make too much sense to drop hundreds on a hotel or even a few dozen on a campsite, it can be free! Accommodation is usually the most expensive part of any trip, so it you’re able to get rid of that cost you’ll have a huge budget for incredibly fun experiences along the way.
FREE is really what we’re after here. Put that saved cash for fueling up or various festivals (and the pricey food you might find there if you must).
Car camping is the solution to an incredibly rich travel experience. Not camping with the usual tents, but rather in/on your car or SUV air mattress. You don’t even need to have a luxury RV or motor home to achieve this. Try camping in your car.
Excited? Nervous? Don’t be. I’ve made a list of 5 travel tips for road trips on a budget. With these tips you’ll stay safe, clean, and comfy for your incredible road trip adventure.
1 – Pack the Essentials: A list of What to Bring on a Road trip
The quick and dirty way is simply a warm blanket or sleeping bag in your car and shove everything else in the trunk. It saves space, keeps the car clean, and a blanket is always good to have on hand.
Though you’re going to need to stock up for a more comfortable road trip experience. At a minimum I would suggest the following;
- Warm blanket or sleeping bag
- Sleeping pad
- 1 liter of water minimum
- Dehydrated camp food
- Camping stove
- Camping cook pot
- Quick dry microfiber towel
- Pocket knife
- Small car toolkit
- Hat and gloves
Some of this might seems unnecessary but it is really great to have these in case of emergencies. Even for an overnighter, all of these things are probably more handy than you might realize.
2 – Where to Park Overnight for Free
Mosts states (or provinces) have their own rules and regulations against overnight car sleeping, so just pulling over for the night anywhere is a sure way to get a hefty ticket or have your vehicle towed. Although some spots look perfect, it’s best to check for the signs around the area or online for laws to avoid this.
Walmart parking lot camping is known to allow free camping and other major chains have followed suit. These parking lots are usually patrolled by security and well lit, so they’re great safe spots for an overnight stay.
Churches and other Religious Buildings
I don’t recommend crashing here the night before a big service, but generally the goodwill of a religious space will allow you to stay overnight for one or two nights if you’re in need. It’s best to ask to make sure, don’t assume that this is a sure thing.
While these might not be technically ‘allowed’, it’s usually OK to sleep in your car for a few nights in neighborhoods that are safe. Don’t always pick the first neighborhood you find if you’re unfamiliar with the city, either ask around where the trouble areas are or look for an upscale neighborhood to sleep in.
First thing to note – NEVER stop and sleep on the side of the highway. There’s a very real danger of cars or truckers hitting other parked cars on the side of the road. If there are any highway truck stops pull over and use those. There’s often spots at highway exits for truckers to sleep at, so with a bit of snooping you’ll find those too.
Don’t forget, if you’re sleeping in your car to always keep your doors locked.
3- Keep your Privacy
Not having privacy is generally pretty stressful, but not having privacy in your car can be downright anxiety inducing. Have curtains or towels to cover your windows and block out light, You’ll want to cover the sides at least to avoid any people peering in and the car lights driving by.
Push your belongings to the sides and rear windows and on the dash if it’s not too much.
4- Air flow
Air flow is key to a comfortable road trip. It will have many positive effects. Most importantly you’ll be able to breath. Secondly it keeps things a good temperature (a humid car can be very cold) and certainly helps to ar out any musty smells you could acquire from sleeping in a small space.
5- Add Some Creature Comforts
Cars might not be the most comfortable place to sleep, but you can make them much better by adding a few small comforts. Blankets, pillows, mattresses – they all add up into a good night’s rest.
Obviously if you have the ability to fold the seats down that’s the best. The best inflatable car mattress also does wonders for warmth and comfort.
Road tripping on a budget is very possible if you camp in your car. Sometimes it’s best to just get out there and go, but covering the little things will make that much easier and more enjoyable to do. Happy Travels!