Why a Summer Road Trip Makes Financial Sense

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Ah, summer vacations. The sun is shining, the kids are out of school, and the urge to escape the daily grind is stronger than ever. But let's face it, traditional vacations like flying to exotic destinations or setting sail on a cruise can be hard on your budget. Airfare, hotel rooms, dining out, and entertainment can quickly add up to a small fortune. But what if there was a way to sidestep these costs and instead embark on an adventure where every moment is a memory, and your wallet stays happy too? 

Well, brace yourselves for the magic of summer road trips! Imagine cruising down the highway in your RV, your loved ones laughing in the backdrop of a golden sunset, and the promise of a cozy campfire under the stars. The best part? You're saving money with every mile. Intrigued?

Let's dive into why a summer road trip isn't just a journey but a smart financial decision that brings your family closer while keeping your budget intact.

The Realities of Summer Vacations

Considering all the costs associated with traditional summer vacations, it's no wonder many families and individuals are left financially strained. Between airfare, cruise tickets, accommodation, dining, and entertainment, your vacation budget can disappear faster than ice cream on a hot summer day.

For example, the cost of a cruise vacation for a family of four can dramatically add up when you account for additional expenses like gratuities, shore excursions, and onboard activities. And if you're thinking of jetting off to a far-flung destination, remember that the cost of airfare can vary dramatically, especially during peak travel periods. Add in the costs for checked bags, airport transfers, and meals, and you might feel like your wallet is on its own vacation!

Rather than splurging on expensive flights or cruises, hitting the open road in an RV or your family car can be a far more economical choice. Your primary expense? Fuel. Accommodation? That's taken care of if you're camping or traveling by RV. And as for meals, having the option to prepare your food can save you a small fortune compared to dining out daily.

Costs of Flying 

According to Hopper's travel booking app, the average cost of a domestic flight this summer in 2024 is around $345. However, this is just the ticket price. When we factor in additional costs such as baggage fees (starting at $30 per bag), airport transfers, meals, and potential in-flight purchases, the total cost can easily exceed $700 for a round trip.

Now, let's multiply this by four for an average-sized family. The airfare alone could reach up to $1,224. Add in the baggage fees and meal costs, and you're looking at a total exceeding $2,600 just to get your family to and from your destination.

Costs of Cruising 

On the other hand, cruising offers a unique vacation experience but can also come with a hefty price tag. For an individual, the average price for a Caribbean cruise in an ocean-view cabin in 2023 is around $64 per day, according to figures on TripAdvisor. But that's just the starting fare. Additional costs include gratuities (usually about $14 per person daily), specialty dining, shore excursions, and onboard activities.

So, if you're planning a seven-day cruise, an individual could easily spend over $546 once all these additional costs are factored in.

As for a family of four, the base fare for a seven-day cruise would be around $1,792. When you add in gratuities, potential dining upgrades, and a few shore excursions, the total cost could easily soar to over $3,000.

Cost of Road-Tripping

Let's jump into the economics of a road trip for an individual. The primary cost is fuel, assuming you own the car you're road-tripping with. On average, a car gets about 25 miles per gallon. With the current national average gas price hovering around $3.50 per gallon, a 500-mile road trip would cost about $70 in gas.

Food is another expense, but cooking meals can be a huge saver. Let's budget $20 per day for groceries, bringing the total for a seven-day trip to $140. If you're camping, campsite fees can vary widely, but let's take an average of $30 per night, adding $210 for a week-long trip.

So, for an individual, a week-long road trip could cost around $420 - significantly less than flying or cruising.

The fuel cost remains the same for a family of four, but the food and campsite fees will increase. Let's say the food budget doubles to $40 per day, totaling $280 for the week. Campsite fees may also increase slightly due to additional occupants, to approximately $35 per night, totaling $245 for the week.

This brings the total for a family of four on a week-long road trip to about $595 - still a fraction of the cost of other vacation options.

RV travel presents an exciting and affordable alternative, especially if you own one. While fuel costs will be higher due to lower gas mileage (an average RV gets about 10-22 miles per gallon), you'll save on accommodation as your RV is your home on wheels!

For a 500-mile journey in an RV, you might spend around $75- $175 on gas. Your food costs would remain the same, but you'd potentially save on campsite fees, especially if you stay in free or low-cost RV parks.

So, for an individual, a week-long RV trip might cost around $215-$315. The cost would be around $355-$455 for a family of four.

An RV road trip is far more cost-effective than the alternatives and comes with additional benefits like the freedom to explore new places, control your daily schedule, and travel at your own pace. Plus, you have the added convenience of combining your accommodation and transport.

Benefits of the Classic Summer Road Trip 

The magic of a classic summer road trip lies in its simplicity and affordability, but it's also about the freedom it offers. It's the chance to spontaneously explore off-the-beaten-path destinations, the flexibility to change plans as you go, and the joy of closer connections with your travel companions.

Road Trips With Big Groups

When it comes to road-tripping with a big group, an RV shines as the perfect solution. With ample space, an RV can comfortably accommodate a large family or group of friends. Multiple sleeping areas, a kitchen, and even a bathroom, meaning everyone can enjoy the journey comfortably. 

Plus, the shared experiences of cooking together in a compact space, navigating new routes, or enjoying a game night in the RV can foster a sense of camaraderie that's hard to replicate in other modes of travel.

The Memories of Road Tripping

Some of the most precious aspects of road-tripping in an RV are the memories created along the way. Unlike the impersonal environment of a busy airport or the rigid schedule of a cruise, an RV trip offers countless opportunities for unique, unforgettable moments.

Imagine waking up to the view of a glorious sunrise over a mountain range right outside your RV window. Picture your family huddled around a campfire, roasting marshmallows under a starlit sky. Think of the laughter and stories shared during long drives, the excitement of spotting wildlife, or the fun of impromptu picnics by a scenic lake.

These are the memories that stick, the ones that are brought up years later at family gatherings, the stories that become part of your family's lore. They are unique, heartfelt, and deeply personal. 

These intimate, shared experiences make RV road trips so special. They offer not just a vacation but a bonding experience, enriching relationships, and creating cherished memories that will last a lifetime.

Best Summer Road Trips

The freedom and flexibility of RVing open up a world of possibilities, especially when exploring hard-to-reach places. Away from crowded popular tourist spots, you can discover untouched landscapes, secluded beaches, or hidden forest trails. From a remote mountain lake to a cozy seaside town, an RV brings these magical locations within your reach for the ultimate summer adventure.

Check out the top summer road trip ideas from a scenic route to a historic route; you'll see stunning scenery and impressive historic sites. 

States with the Best Road Trip Destinations

When it comes to the best summer road trips, a few states stand out for their diverse landscapes and attractions:


This state offers an incredibly diverse range of landscapes and attractions, from San Francisco to the sunny city of San Diego. Cruise through the stunning Pacific Coast Highway, visit the towering redwoods in Sequoia National Park or marvel at the dramatic cliffs and waterfalls in Yosemite. The state's varied geography also means you can enjoy different climates and activities, from surfing on sunny beaches to hiking in cool mountain air.


Known as 'Big Sky Country,' Montana is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. The state is home to Glacier National Park, where you can drive the spectacular Going-to-the-Sun Road. A portion of Yellowstone National Park is within its borders, offering excellent wildlife viewing opportunities. With its wide-open spaces and stunning natural beauty, Montana is perfect for those seeking a peaceful retreat.


This state offers some of the most iconic landscapes in the USA. The Grand Canyon needs no introduction, and driving along the canyon rim offers breathtaking views. Monument Valley, with its unique sandstone formations, is a must-see. Plus, Arizona's desert landscape makes for some beautiful sunsets, perfect for enjoying around a campfire.


Colorado's Rocky Mountains are a major draw for hikers and nature lovers. The state boasts four national parks, including Rocky Mountain National Park, which offers over 300 miles of hiking trails. Plus, Colorado's high altitude means it's less humid in summer, making it more comfortable for outdoor activities like visiting the stunning Mesa Verde national park.


Florida is a great choice for a family road trip. The state offers beautiful beaches, particularly in Key West, and there's a wealth of wildlife in the Everglades. And, of course, no family trip to Florida would be complete without visiting the theme parks in Orlando, including Universal Studios and Disney World.

Other Sites Worth Visiting

Every state has scenic routes worth visiting, from Utah's Zion national park to Oregon's Crater Lake national park to South Dakota's Badlands national park. Carmel by the Sea will knock your socks off and a few days near Salt Lake City will rejuvenate you. 

The Great American Drives

There's nothing quite like the classic great American drives for a memorable road trip. Each of these drives offers a unique perspective on the diverse landscapes of the U.S., making them excellent choices for the best summer road trips:

Route 66

Stretching from Chicago to California, Route 66 is steeped in American history and culture. You'll pass through small towns, see vintage roadside attractions, and get a feel for the open road central to America's identity.

Blue Ridge Parkway

This scenic drive takes you through the heart of the Appalachian Highlands. It's particularly beautiful in summer when the mountains are lush and green. You'll find plenty of scenic overlooks, hiking trails, and charming mountain communities along the way.

Pacific Coast Highway

Running along most of California's coastline, this route offers stunning cliffside views of the Pacific Ocean. Highlights include the iconic Bixby Bridge, the seaside town of Monterey, and the dramatic landscapes of Big Sur.

Going-to-the-Sun Road

As the only road that crosses Glacier National Park, this drive offers unparalleled views of glacial lakes, towering peaks, and, if you're lucky, some wildlife too. It's a challenging drive, with sharp turns and steep cliffs, but the scenery is well worth it.

Great River Road

Spanning 3,000 miles along the Mississippi River from Minnesota to Louisiana, this drive is a journey through America's heartland. You'll pass through quaint towns, cross the famous Mississippi River bridges, and take in some stunning views.

Summer Road Trip With Cruise America

Summer road trips offer an unparalleled sense of freedom and adventure. They provide the opportunity to explore diverse landscapes, visit off-the-beaten-path locations, and create lasting memories with loved ones. Whether chasing the horizon on a classic American drive or discovering the natural beauty of remote states, the journey is just as rewarding as the destination.

When you’re ready to make the most of your summer road trip, Cruise America is your ideal partner. As the nation's largest RV rental firm, Cruise America has a wide selection of RVs to suit every traveler's needs. When you choose Cruise America for your summer road trip, you're not just renting or buying an RV. 

You're embracing a way of life that values exploration, freedom, and the open road. So pack your bags, plot your route, and let Cruise America help you create your perfect summer adventure.