Alright, friends, we’ve been talking about cheap road trips around here and I wanted to share with you some of our road trip itineraries to help you out. This summer, I took my mother and my boys from Tulsa to New Orleans and up the Gulf Coast. We were gone for 10 days and believe it or not, we did not break the bank. That doesn’t mean we didn’t spend money, we did. It simply means we did what we could to save money and we spent money on the things we wanted to spend it on.
First, before leaving town, I had my car completely checked out. I highly recommend doing this, breaking down on the side of the road in an unknown place is kinda scary. I also recommend getting AAA just for peace of mind (and discounts). I’ll admit to you right now, I had to spend $500 to get fluids changed, etc. on my car before we were ready to go. That’s unfortunate but, I wanted to make sure we were all good.
It’s about 10 hours between Tulsa and New Orleans. For our road trips, I try to keep our daily drive no more than 5 hours so we have time to enjoy the day, make surprise stops, etc. So, our first stop was Shreveport and we stayed here at the Courtyard. We actually have Marriot points so this hotel was pretty cheap, it also happens to be the hotel that is attached to the outlet boardwalk which is what I wanted to visit. My biggest tip if you stay here is to stay during the week, not the weekend. It was nice, we stayed and went shopping then, packed up the next day to head to New Orleans.
Again, still using our points (or we would have booked an Airbnb), we stayed at the TownePlace Suites in New Orleans. Would I stay there again? Nope.
I mapped out our New Orleans trip to put us in the business district in order to avoid the heavy drinking places such as Bourbon Street. As it turns out, the only real business happening at this hotel were the drug deals outside. Yep, drug deals. The hotel is gorgeous, everything is nice about it but it’s surrounding area is not so good. If I go back, I’ll stay in the French Quarter near the shopping district. I was under the impression that was all bars but as it turns out, it’s not and it appeared to be a much better place to stay.
SO…moving on…the first thing we do and we do actually spend real money on is, we take a tour. We have done this is Washington D.C., NYC and of course, New Orleans. The tours help you get your bearings and figure where you are at and what you want to do-it’s kinda a big deal. It was especially important to us on this trip because I was ready to check out and head straight to Florida after just a few hours because of the sketchy atmosphere . So, the tour was important for us to figure out where to go and what we were going to do while we were there but also to remember why we were there in the first place, to explore the history of the city.
We wanted a morning tour and we wanted it to include some things we had wanted to do but needed a guide such as a cemetery tour. City SightSeeing is the most common however, I think we found a much better one with Cajun Encounters. We did a breakfast tour which included coffee, beignets and a cemetery tour. LOVED IT. Worth every single penny. And, from that point, we were able to figure out where we were and what we wanted to do.
While in New Orleans, we did a swamp tour, visited plantations and went to the beautiful (and FREE) New Orleans City Park along with a number of other things. My best tip for finding low cost attractions is to search through Groupon. You’ll want to make sure you compare the Groupon prices with the prices on the attraction website themselves, sometimes, it’s a bit inflated. I also found if I drove us to the plantations directly rather than using their transportation service, we saved a bundle!
I feel like I’ve said this for over ten years now but, I’m going to say it again, plan your trip around the best deals! Now, if you have something you just HAVE to see, that’s fine, but for the rest of it-plan around the deals and you’ll save a TON! You can do this with restaurants, hotels, cottages, whatever it might be-just plan around the deals in the same way you plan around sales and coupons when you go grocery shopping.
We spent four days in New Orleans then, we headed up the Gulf Coast. Once you get through Mississippi, all the little beach towns start to run together and are rather close. So, you don’t have to stay the night in every single one, you can literally stay in one town and drive up and down the Gulf Coast.
Frugal Vacation Tip: If you want to save the most money on a “Florida” beach trip, spend your vacation in Gulf Shores or Orange Beach, Alabama (right by Pensacola) or in Pensacola, FL. Those three towns are the most budget friendly I have ever found along the Gulf Coast and they’re beautiful plus, WAY less traffic. (Check out the Pensacola attraction deals right now on Groupon).
If you are a 30A lover like we are, you’ll head past Pensacola and Destin down 30A. This area encompasses some of the cutest little beach towns you’ll ever see, Blue Mountain Beach, Grayton Beach, Seaside, Watercolor, Alys Beach, Rosemary Beach and more. You could stay in any of these towns and you’ll be just fine. We spent the majority of our time in a beach cottage at Seacrest right along 30A. (Click here to find out the best ways to save money on 30A).
I always feel once you get to the beach, you’re not going to drop a ton of money unless you just want to while shopping or eating. For us, we brought our own food and hit the local Publix. We also explored every single beach town along 30A and then some, this is one of our favorite things-a different beach every single day and of course, we always hit Seaside.
I will say the one thing I don’t miss while we’re down there are the Silver Sands Outlets-they are my favorite. The rest of the time, we’re on the beach or we are bike riding-both pretty inexpensive again, you just have to get there. So, that was our trip, 10 days of road tripping fun.
If you are from the Tulsa area, I’ll tell you just a little tip about how I get home to avoid as many of the two lane dirt roads as possible. I actually map out directions to Memphis, this helps us avoid some areas that aren’t so friendly as well as avoid the dirt road situation. You’ll still take a few two lane highways but it’s not nearly as bad as when you set your GPS directly for Tulsa. Just a little tip that might save you a bit of trouble, it says it adds 45-1 hour to the trip but, even if it does, it’s worth it.
P.S. Save $40 on your first Airbnb rental by using my referral link here.
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Sarah Ann is an author, speaker and media personality committed to honesty, vulnerability and authenticity. She has a passion for empowering people who are willing to be honest and walk out life in Christ together, no masks and no curtains. Sarah holds a Masters in Theology and Apologetics, she also owns a clothing company, Ascent516.com, she is creator of SarahAnnSpeaks.com and the Sarah Ann Speaks Podcast and is featured daily on GEB TV.