Believe it or not, there are many ways to calculate the almost exact cost of a road trip. From gas mileage to things such as food and lodging, it's perfectly easy to determine how much money you'll likely spend. Knowing the costs of a road trip beforehand can help drastically with budgeting, especially if travelers are well aware ahead of time where they'll be staying, how many miles they'll be driving, and what they want their ultimate budget to be.

With some simple math (nothing too complicated - we promise!) and a little research, nailing down the budget of a road trip down the dollar can be a reality.

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Everything To Consider Before Hitting The Open Road

Road trips are a different kind of excitement when it comes to travel. The idea of having the freedom to go where you want, when you want, and whichever way you want (roads permitting) is thrilling. It's so exciting that sometimes, it's easy to forget that everything comes with a cost attached to it.

While driving is far cheaper than flying, the costs travelers will accrue along the way do matter, and they do add up. If a trip is spanning multiple days, there's lodging to consider, along with food costs. The cost of gas is also part of the foundation of any road trip budget, which can vary from state to state, so doing the math doesn't always yield consistent results. So, where to start?

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Let's Calculate Gas Mileage

The easiest budget cost to figure out first is the gas mileage because, in all likelihood, it will take up the bulk of the budget. The gas mileage can be determined by using a simple formula that requires only division and multiplication - ergo, it can be done in a matter of seconds.

  1. Determine the total miles to be driven.
  2. Divide this by the average gas mileage of your car.
  3. Multiply this by the gas price per gallon.

Of course, this begs the next question: what happens if the price of gas per gallon is different across state lines? This is a simple fix - research gas prices ahead of time on the route that you'll be taking. Apps such as Gas Buddy can help determine which gas stations are in the immediate area, along with the cost per gallon at each.

Other Things to Consider:

  • The weight of the car will be heavierRealistically, the load on the car will be much more during a road trip due to extra people as well as extra luggage. This can offset the gas mileage for the car, thus reducing the miles per gallon slightly.
  • Speed affects gas mileage. This is why the estimation of miles per gallon will only be that - an estimation. Newer car models have features that tell the driver how many miles they're currently getting to the gallon, which can be helpful in estimating the trip as you go.

Let's Calculate Lodging

This is a very easy cost to calculate and, in reality, road trippers will likely have paid for their accommodations prior to even getting into the car. And, if not, smartphones still make it incredibly easy to figure out. The total of the nights spent at a hotel added together will account for the cost of lodging during a road trip - easy peasy.

Other Things to Consider

  • Room service and other amenities. Be sure to look into whether or not a hotel has room service prior to booking, and whether or not that something you're likely to use - factor this in. Other amenities, such as spas, breakfast, laundry, etc., can also be factored in prior to the trip.
  • Account for fees. Don't forget to add the total of the booking cost with the added fees - not just the price per night that's on the site.

Let's Calculate Food Costs

Food is tricky because not only do these costs fluctuate but if you're not eating at a chain restaurant, then the prices are fairly unpredictable until you're sitting down looking at the menu. Additionally, food might be a spontaneous stop that happens when everyone is hungry - therefore it's virtually impossible to account for exactly how much one will spend. However, there are a number of ways to stay within a budget when it comes to food costs.

  • Determine a budget beforehand. Let's say your daily budget for food is $40/person. This is the budget you would stick to when determining where to get food and what type of food to get. I.e., this could mean stopping at a bakery or cafe for a pastry and coffee, picking out a diner for lunch, and reserving the rest of the budget for a nice dinner out. Or, it could mean subbing out a meal with a fast-food stop to save some money, or spending the bulk of the food budget on a big breakfast to fuel you for the day.
  • Plan out your food stops beforehand. It's a meticulous process but it can be done. If you know your route, you'll also know which dining establishments are nearby thanks to Google maps. Alternatively, you can determine where to eat based on where your lodging accommodations are for the night.

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