No one likes splurging at the pump.

Highway 89 on the way to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon

Peter Olsen/Getty

The average price of a gallon of gas in the United States on March 31 was $4.23, almost $1.40 more than it was at this time last year, according to AAA. Drivers using vehicles significantly less in the immediate aftermath of the pandemic, the oil industry’s production cuts in response to that plummeting demand, and more recently, sanctions on Russia following its invasion of Ukraine have all contributed in some way to soaring prices. (The average is $5.90 in California.)

The discouraging jolt at the pump comes, of course, with somewhat ironic timing, as recalibrated adventure inspired by travel restrictions and all-new work flexibility has unleashed a road trip renaissance unlike any in recent memory.

But the open road can only sustain so much appeal while the means of tackling it continues to decimate the wallets of enthusiasts. So, let’s look at a few ways you can pinch pennies on the side to compensate for the infinite sadness catalyzed by splurging at the pump.

Drive Economically

Camper Goals

Thomas J. Story

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It would be great if the majority of the world were driving electric vehicles, but no one is naive enough to believe that’s going to happen overnight. In the meantime, there are a number of ways to maximize fuel efficiency while you’re on the go.

  • Maintain regular service to ensure optimum fuel efficiency.
  • Keep tires properly inflated.
  • Avoid rapid acceleration and hard braking. Try coasting for once, tailgaters.
  • Avoid idling. Turn your car off instead of sitting for prolonged periods, as one is prone to do while waiting in the drive-thru of that favorite late-night burrito spot.
  • Use cruise control, unless you have a car like mine that has cruise control buttons as novelties.
  • Minimize the use of air-conditioning.
  • Think about how many unnecessary things you’re keeping in your car. More weight is never beneficial.
  • Don’t use premium gas when regular unleaded will do just fine. Check your car’s manual to see what it requires.

Beyond these tips, try using a tool like the Fuel Cost Calculator from Calculator.net, which provides cost estimates based on trip distance, fuel efficiency per car, and gas prices. Learn more about cost-cutting driving tips from AAA.

Find Hotels That Offer Fuel Discounts

Select hotels and resorts have taken notice of soaring gas prices, with some responding by launching initiatives aimed at offsetting the costs of fuel by way of discounts and credits during stays. It’s an option worth exploring, and with a national participant like Under Canvas, there are destinations scattered throughout the West. Here are some of the destinations currently offered limited-time deals:

  • Under Canvas (nationwide): Safari tent-style glamping connoisseur Under Canvas is aiming to entice guests with fuel discounts ahead of staying at any of its 10 nationwide destinations. The Fuel Your Adventure offer is good for $100 off a stay of two or more nights between now and June 30 in naturally-immersive sites adjacent to iconic destinations like Zion, Arches, Bryce Canyon, Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, and Glacier national parks. To claim the discount, just enter the code FUEL100 at checkout, or call 888-496-1148 for booking assistance. But act fast! The offer, while available for stays through the end of June, expires April 18. Learn more here.
  • Captain Whidbey (Washington): Recently renovated, this 6-acre historic waterfront lodge on Washington state’s Whidbey Island traces its storied history back to 1907. Outside of its tenure as an inn, it’s been a boarding house, a residence, post office, general store, and a girl’s school. Nostalgic charm is in every nook and cranny at the Captain Whidbey, and thanks to a limited “Island Staycation” offer, guests can enjoy both a $25 gas gift card and a $25 food and beverage credit redeemable at the onsite restaurant, bar, or espresso cafe. The offer is valid for new reservations for any stays Sunday to Friday, from now until May 31. Learn more here.
  • Estancia La Jolla (San Diego County): Just north of San Diego in La Jolla, the Estancia, a destination well-positioned to see any of the city’s top attractions, is offering a “Fuel Your Summer Package” that furnishes guests with a $50 gas card and a free 25-minute double theragun and chair massage at the hotel’s spa. The promotion can be claimed between April 1 and May 31 and is good for stays between April 1 and June 30. Learn more here.
  • Town and Country Resort (San Diego): A Southern California destination that bills itself as a “slice of Palm Springs” in the Mission Valley neighborhood of San Diego is ready to provide its guests the opportunity to refill their tanks—literally and figuratively—by way of a massive pool complex, retro-style cabanas, outdoor fire pits, myriad dining options, and a $50 gas credit for stays of two or more nights. The “Free Ride Package” is valid through June 30, and comes with a flexible cancellation policy. Learn more here.

Mix and Match

Tent at camp setup in Lake Alpine, California

Thomas J. Story

Hotel costs undoubtedly add up. For those with even a hint of outdoors leanings, why not break up consecutive hotel stays with a night or two at a campground?

Costs plummet when doing so. What’s more, if you’re open to dispersed camping—meaning, away from a designated campground—there’s a good chance you won’t even pay a dime. According to Kampgrounds of America, or KOA, nearly one-third of today’s campers opt for non-designated campsites on public or private land.

Check out helpful sites organizations like recreation.gov, Outbound Collective, The Dyrt, or Sēkr, among others, to nail down a cost-friendly camping option.

Gas Saving Apps

A number of apps available on Google Play and iOS are designed to save you money at the pump. Here are a few of our favorites:

  • Gas Buddy: This well-reviewed gas saver helps its users locate best prices via a gas map filtered by price, location, and even restroom availability (bladders rejoice!). It includes tips and tricks on cutting costs, fill-up logs, driving habit logs, and more. Download for iOS and Google Play.
  • Waze: It may be known for its alternate route options, police notifications, and traffic alerts, but Waze also offers gas-saving tools. You can’t go wrong with this do-it-all guide in your pocket. Download for iOS and Google Play.
  • Get Upside: Pay as usual but earn cash back—Get Upside offers users up to 25 cents per gallon back at more than 25,000 participating gas stations across the country. Just submit a photo of your receipt and cash out. Select grocery stores and restaurants also participate. Download for iOS and Google Play.

Try a Staycation

Bringing along a cooler with pre-prepped food or stopping at a nearby grocery store for healthy options or cost-efficient snacks is never a bad idea.

Additionally, plenty of affordable hotels offer a bevy of complimentary breakfast options. Many trips have given way to my pillaging the breakfast buffet—more times than I’d care to admit, in fact—for both an onsite morning meal and a to-go platter for that day’s lunch.

There is no pride when it comes to the surviving the gas pump’s ruthlessness. We must make do.


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