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Determine a Gas Budget When Planning a Road Trip

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By: Woody Alpern on May 24, 2009 to Budgeting, Vacation

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There was a time when road trips were among the best vacation options for those on a budget. But with rising gas prices, they have become much more expensive. Even so, many vacationers still enjoy hitting the road and seeing the sights along the way.

When planning a road trip, it’s crucial to estimate gas costs as accurately as possible. If you just guess, you could find yourself halfway to your destination and out of money! Here’s how to determine approximately how much you will have to spend on gas.

1. For at least a couple of weeks, keep track of your gas mileage. The easiest way to do this is to fill up and reset your trip odometer. The next time you get gas, fill up again and write down how much gas it took to fill up and how many miles you drove.

2. Divide the miles driven by the amount of gas used. For example, if you drove 200 miles and it took 10 gallons to fill up, you would divide 200 by 10 to get 20 miles per gallon.

3. Remember to fill up each time you get gas and figure your gas mileage. Once you’ve done this a few times, add up the results and divide the total by the number of times you filled up to get your average gas mileage.

4. Figure out how many miles you will be driving during your vacation. This is easy to do with online tools such as Google Maps. Just put in your starting point, add your destinations in order, and you’ll see a map with the best route and the total mileage.

5. Divide the total number of miles you will travel by the miles per gallon figure you came up with. Multiply that number by the price of gas per gallon, and you’ll have a good idea of how much you can expect to spend on gas.

Keep in mind that gas prices fluctuate. By the time you take your road trip, gas prices could have gone up or down. They will also vary from city to city. So it’s smart to budget a little bit extra, just to be sure.

Saving Money on Gas

There are some things you can do to keep your fuel costs as low as possible. Here are a few:

* Seek out the cheapest gas prices along the way. Check prices in the towns and cities you’ll be passing through on a site such as, and try to fill up at the least expensive stations.

* Use cruise control when practical. This will keep you at a constant speed, which can seriously improve your gas mileage.

* Avoid speeding. Not only can this get you an expensive ticket, it’s also bad for gas mileage. The optimal speed for fuel efficiency is 55 mph, and when you go faster than that you’re using more gas than you should.

* Avoid abrupt stops and starts as much as possible. Try to coast to red lights so that they will have time to turn green before you reach them. When you have to stop, accelerate slowly and steadily when the light turns green.

* Get a tune-up before you leave. Things like replacing air and fuel filters and making sure your tires are inflated properly can help boost your gas mileage.

Creating a gas budget for your road trip can help avoid unpleasant surprises along the way. And if you drive with fuel efficiency in mind, you might even use less gas than you had planned.

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