How to Save Money on Your Summer 2020 Road Trip

Summer is here and that normally means summer vacation, right? This summer, however, is very different. COVID-19 has made everyone feel nervous about doing whatever it is we normally do and for older folks like me, even more so. But it is summertime and we all do want to try and get out of the house and have the chance to enjoy the weather. Perhaps even get to the beaches or parks or some other place where we can relax and try to resume some normalcy. When we do any traveling this summer, it will most likely be by driving our cars to our destination. Will that be expensive? Is it safe? What can you do to insure those things and save money on your summer road trip?

Many people are planning a road trip this summer due to the coronavirus pandemic. Here's how to save money on your road trip and travel safely.

Driving Is Better?

According to sources like the AAA, driving is better and safer than flying this summer. During the time frame between now and Labor Day in September, people taking a “road trip” is expected to be up 72% from last year, with 62% of consumers planning to travel by car on their summer vacation. But one problem is that with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it can be overwhelming to figure out how to stay safe during your summer road trip and try to keep your road trip on the cheap.

The answer to that is simple. When you travel by car, you are in control of the sanitary conditions and can keep yourself and your family safer than travel on a train, bus, or airline. There will be no wondering if the precautions were taken and whether sanitation has been done. You will do it yourself and do it every time you get in your car. That would be the first rule of safe summer auto traveling and it doesn’t save you money, but it just might save your life!

Real Ways to Save Money on the Road

The nitty gritty about saving money on auto travel hasn’t really changed much over recent years. The price of gas is always one of those biggies when you travel so what can you do to make sure you don’t bust you wallet just to take a ride when you want to see the sights and relax?

Gas prices are not the 25 cents a gallon they were when I was a teen (true story!), but the good news is that gas prices are down from previous summers. However, don’t just assume that is a given because as the demand for gas increases and the economy recovers, the price of gas will definitely rise. Be very wary of price wherever you travel.

Right now you can do even better when you follow a few of these important tips.

1. Make sure your car is in good repair before any road trip and seasonal weather changes

That means check tire inflation, oil changes, and make sure you have a good spare tire and tools needed if you were to break down.

If you are hauling a boat or trailer, use hardworking engine oils for more extreme conditions which are designed to protect your engine while driving with a heavy load, towing, stop and go traffic, and extensive idling.

If you need a car repair while on a vacation, not only will it ruin your good time but it may cost you more than it would at home. Be prepared for the worst case scenario.

2. Always comparison shop your gas purchases

There are apps you can use to see gas prices and compare them. For budget-minded drivers, GasBuddy is the travel and navigation app that is used by more North American drivers to save money on gas than any other.

Unlike fuel retailer apps, as well as newer apps focused on fuel savings, GasBuddy covers more than 150,000+ gas stations in North America, giving drivers 27 ways to save on fuel. More than any other travel and navigation app, it’s focused on gas savings.

3. Gas prices can and will vary all over the U.S., sometimes drastically

Prices are higher in large cities so try and refuel outside the city limits if you can. Check the latest average gas prices in your state here at AAA.

4. State taxes affect your gas price!

If you are crossing state lines on your trip, be aware of which states’ gas taxes are lowest and fuel up where it’s cheaper. Living here in central NJ, we often travel on road trips to close-by PA, NY, MD, and DE. In every case, the gas tax is very different by region so we know that makes NJ, our home base, the best place to fill our tank. If you can save 10 to 25 cents a gallon on a typical tank of gas (13 gallons or more), that’s a big deal.

5. Be ready to sanitize!

Take advantage of the safety that the highway gas stations can offer. Hand sanitizer stations are now readily available at most brand name retailers and that means you should also look for masks if you need one too, usually available for free. But it doesn’t hurt to be prepared with masks, gloves, wipes, and sanitizer. Keep social distancing rules inside and outside of fuel stations and you can insure a safer trip. Safer trips mean healthier and less costly trips.

Great Money Savers This Summer

Shell and Pep Boys are partnering to help drivers make up for all the miles that they have missed over the past few months. Throughout July and August, you can take 30% off any Pennzoil Oil Change Service or $30 off a Rotella Oil Change Service.

Pep Boys also has a Summer Prep Package that includes a check of your tires, alignment, brakes, AC, cooling system and battery; replacement of your windshield wipers, and the addition of Shell’s one-step fuel system cleaner. In case something unexpected happens along the way, like a flat tire, Pep Boys will also give you a free towing voucher!

Other great maintenance discounts this summer are available at Firestone, and Goodyear Service Centers which offers a free summer maintenance check.

Final Thoughts

The biggest travel weeks are here right now and many people are at least planning a road trip to get away with the family. If you do, you have to think safety and savings in combination, so be prepared and enjoy.

The internet is a great way to plan a trip on your own with directions, toll and gas info, and safety information. As always, getting this and traffic info can save you time and money too!

Before you start your adventure, remember to pack and include an emergency kit and bring your own food with you to help keep costs down. The most important thing you can do is to have a safe, happy road trip, so enjoy this summer and travel safely.


  1. Tolls can be painful… As we spend a lot of time in the US northeast and do a lot of long distance road trips, I often tell Google Maps and Waze to give me a route that ‘avoids tolls’. The tolls on the ‘turnpikes’ and up and down I95 are ridiculous, and so I have no problem taking a route that is a bit longer to avoid a bunch of expensive tolls. When we had a weekend house near the Jersey Shore, I knew all the ways to skip some of the GSP tolls, for just a few minutes extra driving.

    1. Great point, Scott! Tolls irk me as well. With good planning, there are many ways you can avoid the tolls and there’s an extra benefit if you want to consider the scenery that you may get to view by doing that. As long as you have the time, and don’t mind a few extra miles along the way, I’m all for avoiding toll roads.

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