8 expert tips to road trip on a budget

Posted by Anton Crone on 19 July 2021

You want to get away but fuel price hikes and a budget-breaking pandemic make a road trip look expensive. Here are some solutions to get you on track for cheaper!

1. Don’t drive like Max Verstappen

Increasing your speed from 90km/h to 120km/h raises fuel consumption by as much as 20%. Beyond that and your car gets thirstier than a goldfish in the Gobi Desert. Just chill, Max, turn the volume up on some smooth tunes and ease back on the throttle. Imagine you’re Barry White at the wheel of a Cadillac. Easy now. That’s it, baby. Yeah… 

2. Take the road less travelled

Toll fees on main roads can sometimes cost as much as fuel for the journey. Taking the backroads may take a little longer, but it means you avoid all or most of those toll fees. Best of all, the most beautiful destinations and scenery are often on the roads less travelled. Slow down, smell the fresh air and soak up the country views. Before you know it you’ll realise you’re actually on holiday without having to fork over hard-earned cash to pay for a busy stretch of tarmac.

3. Check your ride

Has your car been serviced recently? Is it in tip-top condition? Ensure you can trust it to get you there and back without any expensive surprises. Check oil, water and tyres before and en route – tyres that are low in pressure can detrimentally affect fuel consumption, and worn tyres can lead to dangerous blowouts and having to pay for new tyres and towing.

4. Pack light – but take everything you need

Try to strike a balance here. Pack light enough that you don’t overload the car (heavy cars put strain on parts and use more fuel – ditto on roof racks piled with kit) but take exactly what you need so you don’t end up having to buy extra kit along the way.

5. Ditch the glamour

You’re getting out after lockdown, so ditch the glam and think like a newly released prisoner (No, not that one. Nkandla is not a holiday destination). Airbnb is your friend when it comes to budget lodging – the Airbnb app will help you find accommodation almost anywhere. Plan and book your stays ahead of the trip so you don’t have to resort to expensive lodging en route. SANParks also has loads of comfy, cost effect accommodation – look for National Parks along your route, and book ahead with SANParks. Camping is naturally incredibly cost effective – if you already have all the gear. But not glamping. Glamping is pricey. And it’s ridiculous.

6. Save your bread

No, you can’t have that over-priced bag with seven skinny sticks of biltong from the Engen 1 Stop. Or that bumper Wimpy breakfast that repeats on you 57 kilometres down the road. Snacks and drinks at gas stations are overpriced, and dreadfully unhealthy – They’re called gas stations for a reason. Rather prepare your meals and gather snacks before you embark. And if you’re on a serious budget: peanut butter and jam sarmies taste just as good on the road as they did on school break. 

7. Don’t follow the herd

If you can, pick the low season for your road trip. School vacations and national holidays see people flocking to the road like lemmings. Think fuel-wasting queues and traffic jams; overbooked and expensive accommodation. And besides, you want to get away from the herd, don’t you? When the lemmings return home, it’s time for you to leave. If you have children and are limited to the school holiday schedule, choose unusual destinations and routes (see point 2) Plett, Knysna and Hermanus? Meh. Karoo dorpies and Eastern Cape mountain villages? Yeah! 

8. Give the kids a budget

If you have children, you’ll know that everything, EVERYTHING, looks appealing to them: expensive snacks, toys, souvenirs and amusement parks. If they have their own budget they’ll choose carefully and stick to things they really want instead of begging you to buy things on impulse. 


The ultimate South African road trip for 2021

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