A motorcycle road trip can get really expensive really fast!
It’s hard to keep track of what you’re spending when you’re so busy having fun, isn’t it?
So many times we’ve come back from a few days on the road, glanced at the online banking and almost had a heart attack…
We spent HOW MUCH?
So now we try to be a little more strategic with our motorcycle trip planning.
We plan ahead and do what we can to be a little smarter about the money side of things.
It’s worth the effort, because you can then enjoy the motorcycle road trip knowing that you’re not going to have to live on rice and lentils for 3 months when you get home.
Some simple motorcycle trip planning can save you a fortune.
It’s all about being strategic about how you spend your money – choosing the right kind of accommodation, cutting costs with food and thinking about where and when you gas up.
Read on for my tips for money-wise motorcycle trip planning.
Need a budget-friendly motorcycle t-shirt for the trip?
5 Ways to Cut Costs on a Motorcycle Road Trip
Accommodation can easily become the single biggest expense on a motorcycle trip.
There are a few ways to control the costs, though, by choosing carefully where you stay.
Camping is by far the most wallet-friendly option.
If you pack a tent and are tough enough to sleep on the ground, more power to you.
Personally, I’m not up for it.
I’m way too much of a princess for that.
But I’ll admit it’d be amazing to wake up in nature if you set up your tent by a river, or out in the woods.
You do have to balance out the cost savings with having to carry more luggage, though.
You’ll need to pack your tent, sleeping bags and sleeping mats.
That’s possible if you travel light, have large saddle bags, and are way tougher than me.
At first glance, this option seems like a good idea.
It’s a step up from sleeping on the ground – but still pretty rough-and-ready (shared bathrooms and potentially shared bedrooms, depending on what’s available).
But there’s something to be wary of here.
Backpackers are often filled with 21 year olds on a mission to drink all the beer in the world.
The chances are pretty good that they’ll climb aboard that cool looking motorcycle in the parking lot and pretend to ride it (and potentially drop it) at 3am while you’re trying to sleep.
That’s not a sight you want to wake up to.
Weigh out the risk against the potential savings.
Because of my princess issues, on motorcycle road trips we stay in motels.
But I usually make sure we get a good deal on them before we leave home.
If you don’t plan ahead, you have to hope for the best – that a local motel will have a room available and it’s not a million dollars per night.
And don’t forget after a day on a motorcycle, you look like a wild animal.
I’ve checked into motels many times, only to have the receptionist take a step back in horror.
(Yep, motorcycle helmet hair can be a terrifying look.)
After I get into our motel room I quickly understand why the receptionist looked so worried.
Take off the helmet, and there’s a real live cave woman under there.
ME NEED ROOM! I might as well grunt at her as I wave my credit card.
So now I make sure the booking is in place before I stomp into the reception area dragging a woolly mammoth behind me.
Reserving rooms in advance through last minute sites like Booking.com or Wotif.com is a great idea, and saves money and stress.
Often if you subscribe to the booking site itself, you can get 5-10% off the room rate, so that’s worth doing.
When you use these sites, there’s usually a clear cancellation policy too.
This is really useful if your plans change, or if something awful happens in the meantime.
Like getting Covid (again), which happened to us recently.
I was pleased I could cancel our motel bookings without having to pay for them.
- Book as a group
If your motorcycle road trip includes one or more friends, you can cut accommodation expenses by getting a bigger room and splitting the cost.
If you’re going to do this, it helps if you’re travelling with fairly good friends.
They’ll need to be able to deal with you making coffee in the morning in your underpants.
On a motorcycle road trip, food is another reliably big expense.
Here in New Zealand, eating in restaurants on a motorcycle road trip can be a pretty weird experience.
And too often here, after you’ve had average food and truly terrible service, you’re often hit with a check for over $100.
If you do that every night, you’ll start to develop some anger issues.
You’ll also be broke.
There are alternatives, though.
Picking up some takeout (or having it delivered to your motel room) can be a great alternative to restaurant food.
Quite often you’re tired and dirty anyway after a full day on the road, and it’s a major effort cleaning yourself up enough to face a restaurant full of non-biker diners.
Takeout can also be a lot cheaper than the sit-down version of the same food.
So you can still get restaurant quality food, but at less cost.
- Local diners/small restaurants
Here in New Zealand, fish and chips is pretty much the national dish.
Go to a restaurant or pub for it, though, and it’ll cost you $30 (around US$18).
You can get the same meal (and probably a larger size portion) for less than half that price if you get it from a smaller local place.
This also applies to burgers and other standard fare.
So look around when you arrive in a new town, and bypass the main restaurants in favor of the smaller places – especially if they’re already full of locals.
If the locals eat there, then the food is probably good, and affordable.
- Food vans
Food vans are a great option for some simple food at a bargain price.
Ethnic food, street food, burgers, grilled sandwiches…there are usually lots of choices, and at a fraction of the prices of a full restaurant experience.
Grab a spicy burger, and settle down on a bench to take in a sunset.
For only a few dollars.
This is a smart way to cut your food costs (and also avoid the indigestion that comes from eating road food day after day).
By picking up a hot rotisserie chicken, some hummus, bread and salad, you have a ready made feast at about a third of what you’d pay in a restaurant.
While you’re there, get some cereal, a banana and some milk, and you have the cheapest breakfast in town too for the next morning.
The price of petrol here in New Zealand (like everything else, actually) has absolutely gone through the roof.
Just for fun, I’ve taken to checking out the gas pumps every time we fill up and see what the totals are from the last person who used them.
They’re often in the hundreds of dollars – people are spending a fortune to fill a car.
Now on a motorcycle road trip, you’ll be buying gas every day, and often more than once a day.
This will add up quickly, so it helps to be strategic about this essential and unavoidable expense.
The day before you leave on your motorcycle road trip, fill the bike up at a station you already know has quality gas at a good price.
You’ll know your local gas stations and where the best ones are, so it’s worth taking the time to start the journey right, with a full tank of gas that doesn’t cost you a fortune.
Then, when you’re on the road, be picky about where you fill up.
Which stations are offering deals, or using vouchers or coupons?
Keep your eyes peeled for special offers or discounts, and pull into those stations every time – even if you were hoping to do another 30 miles before refuelling.
Be flexible enough to grab a deal when you see one.
4. Check the motorcycle before you leave
It can be expensive (not to mention stressful) to have to pay for mechanical fixes in the middle of a motorcycle road trip.
It’ll also drive you crazy if you know you could’ve avoided this situation by checking the motorcycle properly before you left.
A couple of years ago we were halfway through a long motorcycle trip, and had to get an emergency tire in a tiny town right at the top of New Zealand.
It had already been an epic motorcycle road trip at that point.
And sure enough, the tire was expensive, and the wrong brand.
But there’s not a lot of bargaining power when your other alternative is to walk (and swim) home.
Admittedly we did ride our Triumph Scrambler down a beach, and along some very rough rocky goat tracks.
I guess the wear and tear was maybe unavoidable.
But it made the motorcycle trip a lot more expensive.
So if you can avoid having to replace motorcycle parts on the road, you’ll save a huge amount of money.
Again, a lot of this comes down to careful planning and making sure the motorcycle is roadworthy, there’s enough air in the tires, the chain is oiled and everything’s working as it should be.
5. Pack carefully
It’s worth taking the time to double check you’ve packed everything you need the night before you leave on your motorcycle road trip.
I usually lay out all the stuff I’m taking on our spare bed.
But this being New Zealand, it’s normal for visitors to arrive suddenly, and stay without any notice, for who knows how long.
(Yep, this really drives me insane.)
This was a problem last week, when we had a motorcycle road trip planned.
Naturally a friend arrived without warning, stayed in the spare room, and left the same morning as we did.
That meant my usual routine of laying out my gear on the spare bed didn’t happen.
As a result, in all the chaos of getting on the road, I forgot to pack my phone charger.
And the only one I could find on our motorcycle trip was over $50.
What a waste of money (I already have two perfectly good chargers at home).
I sighed, and forked out the money.
It was another good lesson in proper planning.
Careful packing is also extra important if you’re a woman.
On a motorcycle road trip, we ladies need all kinds of lotions and potions.
Here are my tips for packing lotions and creams and all the girlie things princesses need.
It’s definitely worth taking a minute to get organised.
That way, you won’t bring a whole lot of stuff you don’t need.
OR forget key items and need to buy more of them on the road.
Motorcycle saddle bags are not as easy to pack as a suitcase!
You definitely need a plan.
Motorcycle Road Trip Planning Can Save You a Small Fortune
Motorcycle road trips are unbelievably fun.
They give you a break from the everyday, and totally save your sanity.
The hubby and I love to go away on the motorcycle every chance we get.
It’d be so depressing to have to stop our trips because they’re too expensive.
That’s really not an option.
So with some strategic motorcycle road trip planning, we can make sure these two-wheeled holidays are affordable, and we can keep doing them.
In fact, we’re just back from three days away on our Triumph Thunderbird.
And of course we’re already planning our next motorcycle road trip.
But now we won’t need to take out a personal loan to do it…