Planning a Scenic New England Road Trip on a Budget

The Great American Road Trip is making a comeback and a New England road trip is at the top of many people’s bucket lists — especially in the autumn! No surprise considering how beautiful New England can be throughout the year.

Yet New England, technically made up of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont, covers nearly 72,000 square miles, which is a lot of ground to cover! New England also has a pretty diverse landscape from Cape Cod’s famous beaches, to Vermont’s Green mountains, New Hampshire gorgeous lakes, and Maine’s Acadia National Park.

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.

Boston harbor from the water
Boston Harbor

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!

Keep in mind that this itinerary gives you a tiny taste of each New England state. Ideally, you would have a week to spend in each state — at least! And you can certainly extend this itinerary to spend as much time as you want in each destination.

Boston, Massachusetts

Boston Tea party ship
Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum

I’d recommend taking seven nights and starting in Boston – after all, didn’t so much start in Boston? If visiting from further away, you can always fly into Boston and rent a car and loop back to Boston at the end of your road trip or fly out of Providence, Rhode Island.

You can’t visit New England without a history lesson. So 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.

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.

Portland, Maine

Portland Head Light

On your second day, you can head up the coast to “Vacationland” – the land of rocky coasts, lighthouses, lobster and moose. Just across the border, make a pitstop in Kittery, Maine at Bob’s Clam Hut for what I think are the best lobster rolls and fried clams on the coast!

You can also stop into the lovely coastal towns of Ogunquit or Kennebunkport for shopping or 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 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.

If you have extra time, you can sign up for a fun lobster boat tour or visit some of Maine’s local breweries.

North Conway, New Hampshire

Dianas Baths near North Conway New Hampshire
Diana’s Baths in New Hampshire

Making the drive through pastoral Maine and into the White Mountains of New Hampshire will take half a day. Once you are 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 some of the area’s local theme parks and attractions including zip lining and moose watching tours.

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.

Stowe, Vermont

Cold Hollow cider mill

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.

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.

Mystic, Connecticut

Things to do in Mystic Seaport

You have a long drive ahead of you today, but that is ok because there are plenty of places to stop along the way. You can take Scenic Route 100 through Vermont or take some time around Springfield, Massachusetts at places such as the Yankee Candle Factory, Eric Carle Museum, and National Basketball Hall of Fame.

When you arrive in Mystic, you will want to take a day 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 change of pace.

Newport, Rhode Island

The back view from the Breakers in Newport Rhode Island

As your last stop, 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?

Money Saving Road Trip Tips

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

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.

Shows gas rewards

It is really quite simple, just register for the Gas Rewards program at or or by signing up for the Shaw’s or Star Market App on your Android® or iOS™ device. You can earn Gas Reward Points when shopping at Shaw’s or Star Markets.

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.) And don’t forget the benefits of camping on a road trip!

Looking for other New England trips?


New England Road trip itinerary - Portlandhead Lighthouse by the rocks

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Publish Date: December 11, 2016

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