Sunday Favorites ~ Thrifty Traveling Tips

Today is Sunday Favorites over at Chari's place, "Happy to Design". This is the day of the week that we revisit a past post.

Since last weekend was our first camping/festival trip for this summer, I thought I would revisit this post from last July. It's a bunch of tips that we use for saving money when traveling. We camp a lot. We take a lot of road trips. We are big fans of small hometown festivals and try to hit as many as we can throughout the summer. We have never had a lot of "spending money" but, we always have a lot of fun. I am a big believer in making memories instead of having stuff (not that I don't have lots of stuff. LOL) but, if I have to choose between buying something or creating a fun memory, I always go for the memory.

It is not unusual for us to head out for a weekend adventure and have only $20-$25.00 between the two of us to spend (besides gas money). That's ok, we plan ahead.

So, here are some of my traveling thrifty tips.

Saving money on food while traveling can get a little difficult. But, here are tricks to help you out.

The first 4 years of my marriage, Troy was an OTR (Over the road truck driver). I spent about 6 months out of the year traveling the highways and bi ways of America. When you are "living on the road" not only can eating out several times a day become very expensive, it also gets very boring.

Some things I learned to do to save money can be applied to just regular traveling. You don't have to be in a Big Rig to use these tips.

**Always keep a cooler with you. You can stop throughout your trip to buy extra ice when you need to.

** Don't waste your space in your cooler with drinks. Keep one bag of ice (or half, whatever) just for cooling down your drinks. Give everyone a travel cup and fill it with the warm drink you packed and add ice.

**You can generally fill your travel mug with ice at a gas station or travel center for free. So, whenever you stop, fill your cup with ice.

**Travel mugs are a must! Most gas stations or Travel Centers will let you refill your own cups at a fraction of the price of buying a cup of something there. Also, I keep one travel cup just for ice water and the Travel Centers (aka truck stops) allow me to refill with ice and water at no charge.

**Carry a couple of cleaned out milk jugs with you. You can refill them with water almost anywhere for free. Milk jugs/juice bottles work the best because they have a good screw on cap.

**If you are a coffee drinker, as I am, bring your thermos with you. Travel Centers will charge a decent reduced price for filling a thermos of coffee. And yes, you can pick up whatever condiments you need for your coffee (cream, sugar, sweetener).

** If you are staying at a hotel, stop and fill your thermos/mugs up before you check in instead of paying for drinks at the hotel. I know most hotels have a little coffee pot in the room, but I need way more morning coffee than just a Styrofoam cup or two.

** Also, if you are staying at a hotel, fill up bags of ice from their ice machines before you head out.

**Pack your own snacks. When those run out, stop at grocery stores not gas stations or convenience stores to purchase more.

**Bring your own cup-a-soups, drink packets, tea bags. You can stop at a Travel Center and get either cold water or hot water for free.

**Keep in your cooler easy to put together lunch items. Stop at Rest Areas and have a picnic lunch.

** A lot of rest areas have grills. You can bring your meats from home (Or whatever you want to grill) and a box of aluminum foil and stop for a much needed break and grill up dinner or lunch. This gives you an opportunity to stretch your legs and relax a bit from driving.

** Have a few fun "park Like" toys tucked away for the kids. When you stop at a rest area to cook a meal, let them wear off some stored up energy throwing balls or frisbees while you prepare the meal.

**Always have a bag of paper plates, napkins, plastic ware, condiment packets, wet wipes with you. I did a post on "to-go bags" HERE

**Check the route ahead of time that you will be driving. Get online and see what cheap/free touristy places there are along the way. Those are great places to stop and have a lunch and do something fun.

** There are many hidden treasures along the highways. With a little bit of planning you would be surprised at what is free or cheap. One of my favorite treasures is on I80 in Wyoming. Stop at "Little America" and get a yummy decent sized soft serve ice cream cone for only .39 cents! Over the years, we have found a lot of little places like this.

**If you do stop at a restaurant, stop for lunch. Prices are cheaper. Always order water, the mark up on soft drinks or iced tea is super high. Split meals with someone. Most good family style restaurants serve really large portions.

** If you have to order a drink, when you get ready to go, ask for a to-go cup of your beverage. Most restaurants do this free. If they don't your not out anything for asking.

** When ordering you meal, think about how that meal will travel if you have leftovers. For example: A spaghetti meal is not going to taste very good cold or be easy to eat. However, a grilled chicken sandwich deluxe, after you eat the fries the sandwich will be tasty later in the car. Many meal selections can actually turn into 2 separate meals.

**Decide ahead of time how much you want to spend and divide that between every member in the family and let them know that this is the absolute most you can spend for your lunch. Stick to your guns!

** Watch for local coupon booklets whenever you stop somewhere. Sometimes they will offer specials for restaurants and hotels. You can often find these booklets at gas stations, travel centers or rest areas.

**If you do a lot of traveling, not just the summer vacation type of car trip, but a lot of traveling, you may want to invest in a cooker. I love this thing! I whipped up some really awesome dishes cooking with this little oven. It is a 12 V lunchbox size oven that you plug into your cigarette lighter. The inside fits the throw away aluminum loaf pans. Here is a picture:It comes with a little cookbook. I used this constantly while traveling. I think to this day Troy will tell you some of his favorite meals came from this little oven!

** There are many different 12 Volt appliances on the market. If you do a lot of traveling take a look at them.

I hope some these ideas will help you keep a little of your hard earned cash in your wallet!


  1. Good ideas! We did several of these on our trip to the Smokey Mtns. It does save lots of money to have snacks and sandwich makings and tastes better also.

  2. Diann, those are some great ideas. When we drive down to FL or up to NY, we make it a point to stop at regular groceries if we have to- the prices at the gas stations are unreal and the quality is awful
    xoxo Pattie

  3. great ideas! although I am the world's worst traveler... not really a fan of car trips.
    visiting from Sunday favorites.


  4. We did a lot of these when I was young! I LOVED rest stops and picnic areas! I thought that was the best part of the trips!

  5. We do travel a lot so I am interested in your tips! Very good info! I may want to print these out, if you don't mind! Thank you! ♥

  6. These are such great tips. When we travel we always spend way too much on food and snacks. I am gonna do some of these things next time for sure. Thanks so much for sharing with us.

  7. I love all these tips and will be implementing a few when we next go to cherokee.

  8. Hi,

    I love the idea of checking for coupons locally. It comes in handy to cut down prices on restaurants. My kids are bigger now so there is less traveling by car now. Its just the 2 of us. Thanks for re-posting I'm a new follower! Your blog is sooo cute!

  9. These are great suggestions. We did a lot of this when our children were little. I always packed food and games for the road. And books! I kept a bag of books in the front seat with me. So I could space them out throughout the trip, instead of the children just going through the bag and reading everything in their reach. Thanks for posting such wonderful travel tips.


  10. Thanks for the tips! You have a lot of great ideas to help us save some money! I love being thrifty!

    We usually vacation at a rental home at the mountains. I pack my cooler with frozen bacon, frozen sausage and misc. items to use for the week. That way I don't pay an arm and a leg for it at the local store in that area. I've been known to bring a small cooler filled with cold drinks in the Summer when it is so hot that you need a drink after you come out of the store! lol


  11. Diann these are awesome tips, especially with kids. The thing for us is my husband loves to find diners and dives that he has seen on the food network, so on big road trips we hit them along the way, I know it's bad! Thanks for coming by!

  12. Hi Diann! Oh, what great tips. Used to do many of these when our children were small on car trips!
    Thank you so much for popping in to see me.
    be a sweetie,
    Shelia ;)

  13. Hi Diann...

    Girl, another post full of great tips!!! You are soooo clever!!! I do follow many of these when we travel! Ohhh yes, I love your little travel cooker...I've never seen one! How handy it would be!!!

    Thank you so much for sharing this fabulous post with us for Sunday Favorites this week! So sorry that I'm just now getting by for a visit...I was out of town yesterday!

    Have a marvelous Monday, my friend!
    Chari @Happy To Design

  14. I remember when we were young and we went to the beach, we didn't bring much food. We usually didn't plan much about food, we just wanted to go to the beach. A family next to us had a lot of food and decided to give us some! The amazing thing was they became our neighbors and they remembered us and reminded us about it! Patsy from


Thank you for taking the time to comment! I love to hear your ideas. If you ask a question, I will answer it here in a comment back to you. Please check back! Thank you for visiting and have a wonderful day! Diann :)