Header Notice

Winter is here! Check out the winter wonderlands at these 5 amazing winter destinations in Montana

How To Sleep Cheap On A Road Trip


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Caron Hays



Embarking on a road trip can be an exhilarating adventure, allowing you to explore new places and create unforgettable memories. However, sticking to a budget while on the road may pose a challenge, especially when it comes to finding affordable accommodation. Fortunately, with a little bit of planning and creativity, it is possible to sleep cheap on a road trip without sacrificing comfort or safety.


Choosing budget-friendly accommodation is essential for travelers on a tight budget. By opting for affordable options, you can free up funds for other aspects of your trip, such as dining out or experiencing local attractions. In this article, we will explore a variety of options that can help you save money while ensuring a good night’s sleep.


From camping in the great outdoors to staying in budget hotels and utilizing vacation rental websites, you’ll discover a range of alternatives to traditional, often pricey accommodations. We will also discuss the use of sleeping apps and websites, which can help you find last-minute deals or connect with local hosts through couchsurfing. It’s time to learn the art of sleeping cheaply on the open road!


Choosing Budget-Friendly Accommodation

When it comes to finding budget-friendly accommodation for your road trip, it’s important to consider your preferences, comfort level, and budget constraints. Fortunately, there are several options available that won’t break the bank.


One of the most cost-effective options is camping. Whether you prefer the solitude of a remote campsite or the amenities of a campground, camping allows you to reconnect with nature and save money at the same time. Many national and state parks offer camping facilities at affordable rates, providing access to scenic landscapes and outdoor activities.


If camping is not your cup of tea, sleeping in your vehicle can be a viable option, especially if you have a spacious and comfortable car or van. This option not only saves you money on accommodation but also gives you the freedom to park and sleep almost anywhere. Just make sure to research local regulations and find safe and legal parking spots.


Another popular choice for budget-conscious travelers is staying at hostels. Hostels provide a social and communal atmosphere, allowing you to meet fellow adventurers and exchange travel tips. Moreover, they offer dormitory-style rooms at significantly lower prices compared to hotels. Some hostels even offer private rooms, providing a balance between affordability and privacy.


For those seeking a more unique and community-oriented experience, consider utilizing couchsurfing platforms. Couchsurfing connects travelers with local hosts who offer their couches or spare rooms free of charge. It’s a fantastic way to meet locals, learn about their culture, and save money at the same time. However, it’s important to exercise caution and read reviews before choosing a host.


If you prefer a bit more comfort and privacy, you can still find budget hotels that offer affordable rates. Look for hotels that cater to budget travelers, offering basic amenities and clean rooms without the frills. Some budget hotel chains even offer complimentary breakfast, further helping you save money on meals.


Lastly, vacation rental websites such as Airbnb offer a wide range of affordable accommodations, including private rooms, shared apartments, and entire houses. These platforms allow you to directly connect with landlords and negotiate better rates, providing a more personalized experience than traditional hotels.


With these budget-friendly accommodation options in mind, you can mix and match depending on your preference and location, allowing you to save money while enjoying a comfortable and memorable road trip. Keep in mind that it’s always wise to book in advance, especially during peak travel seasons, to secure the best deals and availability.


Camping Options

For nature lovers and adventure seekers, camping is an excellent option for budget-friendly accommodation during a road trip. It provides an opportunity to immerse oneself in the great outdoors while keeping costs low. Here are a few camping options to consider:


1. National and State Parks: National and state parks often have designated campsites equipped with facilities such as toilets, showers, and picnic areas. These campgrounds generally offer affordable rates and stunning natural surroundings. Research the parks along your route and make reservations in advance to secure a spot.


2. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Sites: The Forest Service and BLM manage public lands and provide dispersed camping opportunities. These sites typically have minimal amenities, such as pit toilets, but offer the chance to camp in remote and picturesque locations for free or at a nominal fee. Check the regulations and permits required before camping in these areas.


3. Private Campgrounds: Private campgrounds often provide additional amenities such as electricity, water hookups, and even Wi-Fi. While they may be slightly more expensive than public campgrounds, they still tend to be more affordable than traditional accommodation options like hotels. Look for privately-owned campgrounds along your route or in popular outdoor recreation areas.


4. Backpacking: For the more adventurous travelers, backpacking allows for a deeper immersion in nature. With a backpack carrying all your essentials, you can hike to remote locations and set up camp in the wilderness. This option requires proper planning, knowledge of backcountry regulations, and suitable gear.


5. Overnight Parking: In some areas, it is possible to park overnight in certain designated areas or parking lots. While it may not provide all the amenities of a traditional campsite, it can be a convenient and cost-effective option for a quick overnight stay during a road trip. Check local regulations and ensure that it’s safe to park overnight.


Remember to bring your own camping gear, including a tent, sleeping bag, and cooking equipment. Pack lightweight and compact items to make the most of the limited space in your vehicle. Additionally, be mindful of Leave No Trace principles and practice responsible camping by leaving your campsite clean and respecting the environment.


Camping not only offers a budget-friendly accommodation option but also allows you to experience the tranquility and beauty of nature while on your road trip. It’s an excellent way to disconnect from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and reconnect with the great outdoors. So, grab your camping gear and get ready to enjoy the stars, the sounds of nature, and a peaceful night’s sleep under the open sky.


Sleeping in Your Vehicle

For travelers on a tight budget, sleeping in your vehicle can be a practical and cost-effective option. It allows for flexibility and freedom to explore various destinations without the need to book accommodation in advance. Here are some tips for sleeping comfortably and safely in your vehicle during your road trip:


1. Choose the Right Vehicle: Opt for a vehicle that offers enough space to stretch out and sleep comfortably. A camper van or an SUV with foldable seats or a spacious trunk area can provide a better sleeping setup compared to smaller cars.


2. Organize Your Sleeping Setup: Set up a comfortable sleeping area in your vehicle. Use a sleeping pad or an inflatable mattress to create a cushioned surface. Bring pillows, blankets, and warm sleeping bags to ensure a cozy night’s sleep. Consider using light-blocking curtains or window covers to maintain privacy and block out any external light.


3. Park in Safe and Legal Areas: Before settling in for the night, research safe and legal places to park overnight. Look for rest areas, truck stops, or designated overnight parking spots. Some camping apps and websites provide information and reviews on suitable spots for sleeping in your vehicle.


4. Stay Discreet: Practice discretion when sleeping in your vehicle to avoid unwanted attention. Keep window coverings closed and avoid attracting attention with interior lights or loud noises. It’s essential to maintain a low profile and respect the rules and regulations of the area you are staying in.


5. Ensure Ventilation and Temperature Control: Proper airflow is crucial for comfort and safety while sleeping in your vehicle. Crack open windows slightly to allow fresh air circulation and prevent condensation. Use fans or ventilation systems if available. Be mindful of the temperature outside and prepare accordingly with appropriate clothing or bedding options.


6. Safety Precautions: Prioritize your safety and security while sleeping in your vehicle. Lock your doors and keep valuables out of sight. Park in well-lit areas or close to other vehicles to deter potential theft or unwanted intrusions. Trust your instincts when choosing a parking spot, and if you feel uncomfortable, find an alternative location.


7. Utilize Amenities: Take advantage of amenities that may be available in your vehicle. Use the built-in entertainment system for relaxation, or utilize the kitchenette facilities if present. This can help enhance your comfort level and make your sleeping quarters feel more like home on the road.


Sleeping in your vehicle can offer a convenient and economical solution for road trip accommodation, particularly for solo travelers or those who enjoy the flexibility of spontaneous travel. Nevertheless, it’s essential to be aware of local laws and regulations regarding sleeping in vehicles and to exercise caution when choosing where to park.


Above all, remember to prioritize your safety and comfort. With proper planning and preparation, sleeping in your vehicle can be an enjoyable and budget-friendly alternative to traditional accommodation options during your road trip.


Staying at Hostels

If you’re a budget traveler looking to connect with like-minded individuals and save money on accommodation, staying at hostels is an excellent option. Hostels offer affordable rates, a social atmosphere, and the opportunity to meet fellow adventurers from around the world. Here’s what you need to know about staying at hostels during your road trip:


1. Dormitory-Style Rooms: Most hostels provide dormitory-style accommodation, where you share a room with several other travelers. The number of beds in each room can vary, ranging from four to twenty or more. Sleeping in a dormitory allows you to save money as it is typically the cheapest option.


2. Private Rooms: Some hostels also offer private rooms for those seeking more privacy. These rooms are usually more expensive than dorms but still considerably cheaper than traditional hotel rooms. Private rooms may come with en-suite bathrooms or shared facilities. Check the availability and prices when booking your hostel.


3. Common Areas and Facilities: Hostels often provide common areas such as lounges, kitchens, and outdoor spaces. These areas allow guests to socialize, prepare their own meals, and relax. Take advantage of these facilities to meet fellow travelers, share stories, and gain valuable insights and recommendations about your destination.


4. Hostel Activities and Events: Many hostels organize activities and events to encourage interaction among guests. These can include pub crawls, city tours, cooking classes, game nights, and more. Participating in these activities can be a fun way to meet new people and create lasting memories during your road trip.


5. Hostel Amenities: While hostels may not offer the same level of luxury as hotels, they often provide essential amenities such as free Wi-Fi, lockers or storage facilities, laundry services, and communal computers. Some hostels may also offer free breakfast or have a bar on the premises, providing added convenience and savings.


6. Research and Reviews: Before booking a hostel, read reviews and check ratings from previous guests. This will give you a better understanding of the hostel’s cleanliness, safety, and overall atmosphere. Websites such as Hostelworld and TripAdvisor are valuable resources for finding reliable reviews and making informed decisions.


7. Book in Advance: Popular hostels can fill up quickly, especially during peak travel seasons. To secure a spot and potentially save money, it’s advisable to book in advance. However, if you have the flexibility, last-minute deals and availability may be possible, especially during off-peak periods.


Staying at hostels not only helps keep your accommodation costs low, but it also provides a unique opportunity to connect with fellow travelers, exchange stories, and gain insights into different cultures. Hostels are often located in central areas, making it convenient to explore nearby attractions and immerse yourself in the local culture.


While staying in a dormitory-style room might not offer the same level of privacy as a hotel, the experience of meeting diverse individuals and forming friendships can greatly enrich your road trip journey. So, consider staying at hostels to stretch your budget and create lasting memories with fellow travelers from around the world.


Utilizing Couchsurfing

If you’re seeking a unique and cost-effective way to experience local culture and connect with people, Couchsurfing is an excellent option. Couchsurfing is a platform that connects travelers with hospitable hosts who offer their couches, spare rooms, or even entire homes for free. Here’s what you need to know about utilizing Couchsurfing during your road trip:


1. Create a Detailed and Engaging Profile: The first step in utilizing Couchsurfing is to create an attractive profile that reflects your personality and travel interests. Include information about yourself, your travel experiences, and why you’re interested in Couchsurfing. Hosts are more likely to accept requests from travelers with complete and engaging profiles.


2. Research and Choose Hosts Wisely: Take the time to read through host profiles and reviews to find suitable matches. Look for hosts who share similar interests, have positive reviews from other travelers, and have been active on the platform. Sending personalized requests to potential hosts will greatly increase your chances of finding a place to stay.


3. Communicate and Build Rapport: Once you’ve found potential hosts, send them a thoughtful message introducing yourself and explaining why you’re interested in staying with them. Building a connection and demonstrating genuine interest in their culture and lifestyle will make hosts more likely to accept your request.


4. Respect House Rules and Expectations: Every host will have their own house rules and expectations. It’s important to respect these rules and adapt to the host’s lifestyle during your stay. This includes being considerate of their space, belongings, and any cultural practices they may have. Remember, Couchsurfing is not just about free accommodation, but also about forming meaningful connections and cultural exchanges.


5. Offer Your Skills or Gratitude: While Couchsurfing is a platform for free accommodation, it’s always appreciated when travelers offer their skills or express gratitude in return. This could be as simple as cooking a meal for your host, sharing stories from your travels, or offering to help with household chores. Small gestures can go a long way in building connections and showing appreciation.


6. Safety Considerations: While Couchsurfing can be a fantastic experience, it’s essential to prioritize your safety. Read reviews and feedback from other travelers about potential hosts. Take the time to inform friends or family about your Couchsurfing arrangements and share your itinerary with them. Trust your instincts and communicate with your host openly about any concerns you may have. Couchsurfing has a verification system in place, so consider staying with hosts who have completed the verification process.


7. Be a Gracious Guest: Remember, Couchsurfing is a privilege offered by kind hosts. Be a gracious guest by keeping the space clean, adhering to the host’s rules, and expressing your gratitude for their hospitality. Leave a thank-you note or a small gift before you depart to show your appreciation.


Utilizing Couchsurfing can not only help you save money on accommodation but also provide you with a local perspective, cultural immersion, and the opportunity to build lasting friendships. It’s a wonderful way to make your road trip even more meaningful and memorable.


Finding Budget Hotels

If you prefer the privacy and convenience of a hotel during your road trip, there are still ways to find budget-friendly options. By utilizing certain strategies and online resources, you can discover affordable hotel accommodations without sacrificing comfort. Here are some tips for finding budget hotels:


1. Research and Compare Prices: Before making any hotel reservations, take the time to research different hotels in your desired locations. Use hotel booking websites and comparison platforms to compare prices and amenities. Look for hotels that offer competitive rates and special deals for budget-conscious travelers.


2. Consider Off-Season Travel: Traveling during off-peak seasons can often result in significant savings on accommodation. Hotels tend to offer lower rates during periods of low occupancy, making it a great opportunity to snag a budget-friendly room. Additionally, you’ll likely encounter fewer crowds and enjoy a more relaxed travel experience.


3. Look for Promotions and Special Offers: Many hotels offer promotions and special discounts throughout the year. Keep an eye out for deals such as discounts for extended stays, early bird booking offers, or package deals that include meals or local attractions. Signing up for hotel newsletters or following their social media accounts can help you stay updated on the latest promotions.


4. Consider Chain Budget Hotels: Budget hotel chains are specifically designed for travelers looking for affordable accommodations. These hotels often offer basic amenities, comfortable rooms, and competitive rates. Popular chain budget hotels include Motel 6, Red Roof Inn, and Super 8. Research the locations along your road trip route and read reviews to find reliable options.


5. Opt for Non-Central Locations: Hotel rates tend to be higher in prime city center locations. Consider staying in hotels that are located slightly outside the city center or in quieter neighborhoods. The savings from choosing a non-central location can make a significant difference, especially for travelers on a budget.


6. Look for Last-Minute Deals: If you have the flexibility to book last-minute, you may be able to find attractive deals on hotel booking websites or mobile apps. Hotels sometimes offer discounted rates for rooms that have not been booked, especially during weekdays or on short notice. Keep an eye out for these last-minute deals and be ready to make a reservation when you find a suitable offer.


7. Read Reviews and Ratings: Before finalizing your hotel booking, take the time to read reviews and ratings from previous guests. Websites such as TripAdvisor and Booking.com provide valuable insights into the quality and customer satisfaction of specific hotels. Pay attention to recent reviews to ensure the hotel maintains its quality and standards.


Remember, finding budget hotels is about striking a balance between affordability and comfort. While cost savings are important, it’s equally vital to choose accommodations that meet your basic needs, such as cleanliness, safety, and accessibility to your desired destinations. With careful planning and research, you can find budget-friendly hotels that provide a comfortable place to rest during your road trip.


Using Vacation Rental Websites

If you’re looking for a more home-like experience during your road trip, vacation rental websites can be a great option for finding affordable and comfortable accommodations. These platforms connect travelers with individuals who rent out their homes or properties. Here’s how you can utilize vacation rental websites to find budget-friendly accommodations:


1. Browse and Compare Listings: Start by browsing through listings on popular vacation rental websites such as Airbnb, Vrbo, or Homeaway. Use the search filters to narrow down your options based on location, price range, amenities, and the number of guests the property can accommodate. Take the time to compare different properties to find the best value for your money.


2. Read Reviews and Ratings: Reviews and ratings from previous guests provide valuable insights into the quality, cleanliness, and overall satisfaction of a property. Make sure to read reviews from recent guests to ensure the property is well-maintained and meets your expectations. High ratings and positive reviews are indicators of a reliable and comfortable rental.


3. Communicate with Hosts: Once you’ve identified a few potential properties, reach out to the hosts with any questions or specific requirements you may have. Clear communication can help you gauge the host’s responsiveness and reliability. Inquire about any additional fees, check-in/check-out procedures, and any specific amenities or services you may need during your stay.


4. Consider Location and Accessibility: Pay attention to the location of the vacation rental in relation to your planned activities and attractions. While properties located in central areas may be more convenient, they can also be pricier. Consider properties in nearby neighborhoods or quieter areas that offer more affordable rates. Also, check the accessibility and available transportation options in the vicinity.


5. Take Advantage of Discounts and Special Offers: Keep an eye out for discounts and special offers on vacation rental websites. Hosts often provide lower rates for longer stays or offer promotions during certain times of the year. Utilize these discounts to further save on your accommodation expenses.


6. Pay Attention to Extra Costs: While vacation rentals can be cost-effective, it’s essential to factor in any additional costs, such as cleaning fees, service fees, or security deposits. Be sure to carefully review the pricing details and calculate the total cost of your stay to avoid any surprises.


7. Consider Shared Spaces or Private Rooms: If you’re comfortable with shared accommodations, consider renting a private room in someone’s home. This option is often more affordable than renting an entire property. If privacy is important to you, look for properties that offer separate entrances or private spaces.


Vacation rental websites offer a wide range of accommodations, from cozy apartments to sprawling villas, making them an excellent choice for travelers seeking affordable and home-like stays during a road trip. By using these platforms, you can find unique and budget-friendly accommodations that provide a comfortable and personalized experience.


Sleeping Apps and Websites

In today’s digital age, there are numerous sleeping apps and websites designed to help travelers find affordable and convenient accommodations. These platforms provide a range of options, including last-minute deals, discounted rates, and unique lodging experiences. Here are some popular sleeping apps and websites that can assist you in finding budget-friendly accommodations during your road trip:


1. Hotel Booking Apps: Leading hotel booking apps such as Booking.com, Expedia, and Hotels.com offer a wide selection of hotels, ranging from budget to luxury options. These apps often provide exclusive discounts, rewards programs, and last-minute deals, allowing you to find the best rates for your desired accommodations.


2. Aggregator Websites: Aggregator websites like Trivago and Kayak aggregate hotel listings from various booking sites, enabling you to compare prices and find the most affordable options. These platforms make it easy to search for accommodations based on location, price range, and guest ratings, helping you make an informed decision.


3. Hostel Booking Websites: If you’re interested in staying at hostels, websites such as Hostelworld and Hostelbookers specialize in connecting travelers with budget-friendly hostel accommodations worldwide. These platforms allow you to search for hostels, read reviews, and book directly online, ensuring a seamless booking process.


4. Vacation Rental Platforms: Vacation rental websites like Airbnb, Vrbo, and HomeAway provide access to a diverse range of accommodations, including entire homes, apartments, and unique lodging options. These platforms often offer affordable rates and the opportunity to stay in local neighborhoods, enhancing your road trip experience.


5. Last-Minute Booking Apps: If you’re flexible with your accommodation plans, last-minute booking apps such as HotelTonight and Overnight offer discounted rates for same-day or next-day bookings. These apps focus on finding available rooms at reduced prices, making it ideal for spontaneous travelers seeking cost-effective options.


6. Room-Sharing Platforms: Room-sharing platforms like Couchsurfing and BeWelcome connect travelers with hosts who offer their couches or spare rooms for free. While these platforms prioritize cultural exchange and building connections, they can also help road trippers save money on accommodations and experience a local perspective.


7. Local Tourism Websites: Local tourism websites for specific cities or regions often provide information about budget-friendly accommodations, including guesthouses, budget hotels, and family-run establishments. These websites may also offer insights into local events, attractions, and discounts, making them a valuable resource for finding affordable lodging options.


Utilizing sleeping apps and websites can simplify the process of finding budget-friendly accommodations during your road trip. From hotels to hostels and vacation rentals, these platforms offer various options to suit every traveler’s needs and preferences. Take advantage of the features and discounts provided by these apps and websites to secure affordable and comfortable accommodations along your journey.


Safety Considerations

While embarking on a budget road trip and searching for affordable accommodations, it’s essential to prioritize your safety and well-being. Here are some important safety considerations to keep in mind during your journey:


1. Research the Area: Before selecting an accommodation option, research the safety of the area you plan to stay in. Look for any travel advisories or warnings from reliable sources such as government travel websites or local authorities. Use online maps to identify the location of the accommodation and assess its proximity to emergency services and well-lit areas.


2. Read Reviews and Ratings: Reviews and ratings from fellow travelers can provide valuable insights into the safety, cleanliness, and overall experience of a specific accommodation. Pay attention to any mentions of safety concerns or incidents in the reviews. Prioritize accommodations with positive reviews and high ratings in terms of safety.


3. Secure Your Belongings: Regardless of the type of accommodation you choose, always take precautions to secure your belongings. Use lockable luggage or backpacks, carry important documents and valuables with you, and utilize any provided safes or lockers. Keep an eye on your belongings and be cautious when sharing common spaces with other travelers.


4. Inform Someone about Your Itinerary: Before setting off on your road trip, make sure to share your itinerary with a trusted friend or family member. Provide them with details of your planned route, accommodations, and estimated time of arrival. Regularly check in and update them on your whereabouts during your trip.


5. Trust Your Instincts: Trusting your instincts is essential when it comes to personal safety. If something feels off or uncomfortable, listen to your instincts and take appropriate action. This may involve finding alternate accommodations, moving to a different location within the accommodation, or seeking assistance from local authorities.


6. Communicate with Hosts or Property Owners: If you’re staying in a vacation rental or utilizing Couchsurfing, establish open and clear communication with your hosts or property owners. Discuss any safety concerns or questions you may have in advance. Additionally, inform them of your expected arrival time and maintain regular communication during your stay.


7. Practice General Safety Measures: Adhere to general safety measures during your road trip, regardless of the type of accommodation you choose. This includes locking your vehicle when parked, being aware of your surroundings, using well-lit and populated areas, and avoiding isolated or unsafe locations, especially at night.


Remember that safety should always be a top priority during your road trip, and your choice of accommodation plays a crucial role in ensuring your well-being. Take the time to research and select accommodations with positive reviews, prioritize secure storage options, and trust your instincts. With cautious planning and awareness, you can enjoy a safe and memorable budget road trip experience.



Embarking on a budget road trip doesn’t mean you have to compromise on the quality of your accommodations. By exploring various options and utilizing the resources available, you can find affordable and comfortable places to sleep while still enjoying your journey. From camping in national parks to staying at hostels, there are numerous budget-friendly accommodation choices for every type of traveler.


In this article, we discussed different options for finding budget-friendly accommodations, including camping, sleeping in your vehicle, staying at hostels, utilizing Couchsurfing, finding budget hotels, using vacation rental websites, and taking advantage of sleeping apps and websites. Each option offers unique benefits, allowing you to choose the accommodation that aligns with your preferences, comfort level, and budget constraints.


Regardless of the accommodation option you choose, it’s crucial to prioritize safety and take appropriate precautions. Research the areas you’ll be staying in, read reviews from fellow travelers, and secure your belongings. Communicate with hosts or property owners and trust your instincts to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.


As you plan your road trip, remember that finding budget-friendly accommodations is just one piece of the puzzle. Consider other cost-saving strategies such as dining at local eateries, using public transportation, and taking advantage of free or low-cost attractions to stretch your budget even further.


Ultimately, a road trip is about creating unforgettable memories, exploring new destinations, and immersing yourself in unique experiences. With careful planning, creativity, and an open mind, you can sleep cheaply on your road trip without sacrificing comfort, safety, or the joy of the journey.