Staying cheap on a road trip is a challenge. There are so many temptations and pit-falls, and when you get tired, it’s easy to give in to easy but more expensive options.
- Prepare! My best solution was being well-prepared. This meant high-level planning. Not only did I plan a menu – all typed out, by golly, with columns showing the days travel, where we were staying – with contact details, what we were eating, the ingredients I was taking from home, and what I needed to buy at the last minute, but I bought food at PaknSave, got Gavin to make a thermos, and I also printed out recipes for healthy quick meals, so that I wasn’t caught out buying expensive bits to make meals. As it happened, I wasn’t as smart as I thought I was, because I hadn’t priced out some ingredients. Predictably small supermarkets in small towns are expensive, and I was delighted that I had taken small items that were essential, and didn’t have to buy whole bottles of sauces. I had also picked herbs out of my garden and put them into plastic bags for use in the first couple of meals that I made.
- Check out prices! I had thought cooking some burgers would be quick and smart, because I would have some salad from a previous night, and I even took my own mayo and tomato sauce so that I wouldn’t have to buy any. However, it turned out that buying pre-made rissoles was really expensive, and I would have to buy buns as well. I could have had 4 Angus rissoles for around $10.00 (eh????) or some really crappy looking ones for $8.00. It didn’t make sense to me. I gave up and bought some smoked salmon instead for $6.00, and made a salad with salad leaves, smoked salmon, a poached egg, and some bread. Really quick to make, and really tasty and with those Omega 6’s. Normally I would make a vinagrette but just used the mayo I had brought with me on this occasion.
- Choose Cheap Recipes. Another recipe I did was a Pork Mince Noodle Stir Fry. Really easy and quick with rice noodles that you just pour boiling water over, and let sit for 10 minutes. The recipe made so much we had left-overs not only for dinner the next night, but for several lunches as well. This wasn’t actually the recipe I used, but it was very similar.
- Take a thermos! Having a thermos saves a heap. I don’t drink tea or coffee myself, and just stick to water usually, but my husband sure does, so he had a coffee thermos and a tea thermos, and I’m quite sure the first day of the trip alone this saved about $16.00. He also used them on subsequent days. He ran out of enthusiasm towards the end of the trip, and so did I. He likes the iced coffee you can buy from the supermarket to help keep him sharp when driving. I didn’t moan too much, since he had saved a lot of $$ early in the trip using the thermos.
- Watch the time! Watching timing matters if you want to be cheap. On our last night we didn’t get in to Ohakune where we were staying, until after the local supermarket closed, so we decided to make a celebration of it, and went to one of only two restaurants open in town. We made a conscious decision to relax and enjoy it, since expensive was inevitable, so we laid back and enjoyed it! The restaurant was great, warm and cosy and the food was tasty. Bearing Point.
- Use Public Transport in cities – this is cheaper than paying parking, and also stops you burning up petrol driving round trying to find parking buildings.
- Shop with your eyes – you can enjoy shopping without having to spend! Window shopping is fun. I did buy a few things for Xmas presents, but that is just being organised, not splashing out!
- Choose Free Activities – Yes it’s fun to do activities on your holiday. However, there are lots of activities that don’t cost, that are enjoyable. Walking the waterfront, getting to a high spot for a great view, going to Museums and Art Galleries, and finding lovely local parks are all great to do on holidays. Botanical Gardens don’t cost anything, and they look great in Springtime!
- Offer to cook – If you have lovely friends like I do, who say “Mi casa, es su casa”, offer to cook! It might be fun to take them out for dinner, but your budget might suffer pretty badly! In fact, all my offers got turned down, and we were spoilt with home-made pasta (ravioli) and beautiful lamb right off the farm, and all sorts of other goodies!
Sometimes you see people doing things that are even more cheapskate than you! We had a couple of nights in a motel when we were at the Wellington Folk Festival, and our neighbour was also going to the Folk Festival. I noticed she had a visitor, who slept in their car outside the motel, and then took her toilet items in to clean up and have a shower. As a host in our own B & B I know how I would feel about that! We pay for water, as well as the electricity to heat it, and I’m not impressed by people “stealing” that!
Have a great trip, and enjoy exploring – on the cheap!