Planning a Scenic New England Road Trip on a Budget

Today’s post is brought to you by Shaw’s and Star Market, we thank them for their support.

With Zika to the south and terrorism on the rise in Europe, it is no wonder that the Great American Roadtrip is making a comeback. As a travel planner, I get frequent enquiries from families looking to plan a New England road trip, but they don’t know where to start.

No surprise! New England, technically made up of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont, covers nearly 72,000 square miles. It also has a pretty diverse landscape including beaches, mountains, lakes, and many historic sights. You can’t see it all in one go, but if you’d like to give it a try, I’m offering a sample New England road trip itinerary – and ideas to make it more affordable!

I’d recommend taking seven nights and starting in Boston – after all, didn’t so much start in Boston?

Scenic New England Road Trip Itinerary

Note: This post contains affiliate links. If you click a link and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission. All opinions are my own.

Day 1 – Boston, Massachusetts

You can’t visit New England without a history lesson. Begin your day at the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum to learn about the very birthplace of our nation. Follow that up with a walk along the Freedom Trail.

By then you might feel a bit burned out, so relax and enjoy shopping on Newbury Street, a visit to the Children’s Museum, Museum of Science or New England Aquarium. In the summer, catch a ride on the Harbor Islands Ferry or take a whale-watching cruise to get out on the water.

Boston can be an expensive city, so pick a family-friendly, budget-friendly hotel like the Seaport Hotel or Residence Inn. You can also use a Boston CityPASS to save money on attractions.

Boston Tea party ship

Day 2 – Portland, Maine

Head up the coast to “Vacationland” – the land of rocky coasts, lighthouses, lobster and moose. Stop on your way up at the lovely coastal towns of Ogunquit or Kennebunkport for shopping and lunch before heading to the Portland Head Light at Cape Elizabeth.

The whole family will enjoy the walking trails, clambering over rocks, and photographing the picturesque lighthouse. If you are hungry, seek out the Bite into Maine food truck for a delicious lobster roll. But save room, because Portland is a foodie city!

Enjoy a delicious dinner (might I suggest the Portland Lobster Company?) and time strolling around the Old Port. I particularly like the Hilton Garden Inn and Courtyard Marriott in the Old Port for families, but the further outside of town you stay, the better deals you will get.

Portland Head Light

Day 3 – N. Conway, New Hampshire

Make the drive through pastoral Maine and into the White Mountains of New Hampshire. There you will have no shortage of activities to choose from including: splashing around in the waterfalls at Diana’s Baths, driving or taking the Cog Railway to the top of Mount Washington, hiking, or enjoying one of the local amusement parks like Storyland.

We loved our time at the Red Jacket Mountain View Resort and playing at their Kahuna Laguna indoor waterpark, but there are other budget-friendly options in and around North Conway, including the new Residence Inn.

Dianas Baths near North Conway New Hampshire

Day 4 – Stowe, Vermont

From the White Mountains, head to the heart of the Green Mountains in Vermont. But first, if the weather permits, drive along the scenic Kancamagus Highway in New Hampshire and take a quick hike through the gorgeous Flume Gorge. Stop by Cabot, VT for some delicious cheese, or head right to the mountains for three season activities such as hiking, mountain biking, treetop adventures, and mountain coasters.

I’d recommend the Stoweflake Lodge or Smugglers’ Notch for families, but there are plenty of budget-friendly options in this area.

Cold Hollow cider mill

Day 5 – Stowe, Vermont

Take another day to enjoy everything this region has to offer, including maybe a day trip to the Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory or over to Lake Champlain for the ECHO Museum.

Day 6 – Mystic, Connecticut

You have a long drive ahead of you today, but that is ok because there are plenty of places to stop along the way if you like such as the Yankee Candle Factory, Eric Carle Museum, and National Basketball Hall of Fame.

Don’t dally too much because when you arrive in Mystic, you will want time to visit the historic Mystic Seaport and some of the many other things to do in Mystic (like dinner at the Engine Room.) To save some money, try out one of the “glamping” cabins at the Mystic KOA for a switch.Deluxe cabins at the KOA Mystic CT

Day 7 – Newport, Rhode Island

On your last day, make the short drive over to Newport, Rhode Island, where it is best to experience the sailing capital of the world from the water. You can join a sail or rent a private yacht, but either way, the views are fabulous.

Afterwards, check out some of the famous mansions or take a drive along Ocean Drive. Did you know that you could even spend the night on a sailboat if you check Airbnb?

The back view from the Breakers in Newport Rhode Island

Money Saving Road Trip Tips

Now that you know where to go, the question is, how can you afford it? A recent U.S. Family Travel Study by New York University showed that affordability is still the greatest challenge to families who want to travel. Luckily, I’ve got three ways to help you save money on and for your road trip.

Go grocery shopping! That’s easy, right? Shaw’s and Star Market have teamed up with Sunoco to launch a Gas Rewards program. Now when you shop at more than 100 participating Shaw’s and Star Market locations throughout Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire and Maine, you can get up to $1.00 off per galloon when redeeming your Gas Rewards at approximately 150 participating Sunoco stations.

It is really quite simple, just register for the Gas Rewards program at shaws.com or www.starmarket.com or by signing up for the Shaw’s or Star Market App on your Android® or iOS™ device.Shows gas rewards

You can earn Gas Reward Points when shopping at Shaw’s or Star Markets:

  • One point per $1 spent on eligible grocery purchases
  • One point for every out-of-pocket cost dollar spent on in-store pharmacy purchases, including co-pays.
  • Two points per $1 spent on qualifying gift cards
  • For every 100 Reward Points earned by shopping, you will receive a 10 cent-per-gallon Gas Reward.
  • Customers with an existing MyMixx account can start earning and redeeming immediately by using your registered phone number at checkout and at the gas station.Earn gas rewards

To redeem your rewards, simply use your same registered phone number by entering it at the pump or inside the station before fueling up.

While you are stocking up on groceries, be sure to buy some to take along on your road trip.

Pack a cooler. Whenever we take a long road trip, we bring along a cooler and ice packs (even better if you have a cooler you can plug into the cigarette lighter to keep things cool.) Not only is a cooler helpful for bringing along snacks and drinks to save money, but it can also come in handy for storing leftovers!

Chances are you will be going out to eat and we all know that in America, we believe in big portions. Don’t let that go to waste just because you are staying at a hotel. On our last road trip we brought leftovers back and put them in the fridge in our room and heated them in the in-room microwave the next night. Not only did that save the cost of a meal, it also meant we had one night where we could just hang out in our PJs and relax, instead of waiting for a table at a busy restaurant.

Look for room deals. Sometimes you need to get a little creative to save money on accommodations. When visiting cities like Boston or Portland, you can often find good deals on Priceline (find out some great tips for using Priceline.)

We have also scored an amazing deal at the luxury hotel in Boston using Hotel Tonight (use promo code TGRUBER1 to get $25 off your first booking.) In other locations, you can find deals using rental sites like Airbnb or Homeaway. Also, using a credit card that earns points will get you closer to a free room! And don’t forget the benefits of camping on a road trip!

So are you ready to plan your road trip? Just be sure to stop by your local Shaw’s or Star Market first to earn those Gas Rewards and then fuel up at Sunoco before hitting the open road.


Planning a New England road trip? Use this itinerary to fit in the very best that New England has to offer in one itinerary. Plus, we show you how to do it on a budget. #newengland #roadtrip #maine #massachusetts #connecticut #rhodeisland #newhampshire #vermont #usaroadtrip #usatravel


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