10 From GEM: Spring Break Edition:
10 Ways To Save Money On A Road Trip
Road trips seem like a pretty cheap way to travel on vacation, but it can get very expensive very quickly without proper planning. Sure, you do save money because you didn’t buy airline tickets or rent a car; but hotel stays, gas, sightseeing stops, and food add up before you even arrive at your destination. So what can you do to make sure that you save money along the way? Read on for our 10 best ideas.
1. PREP YOUR VEHICLE
You don’t want to be away from home with car trouble. It’s frustrating and you could be at the mercy of unscrupulous mechanics. Avoid unexpected repair costs on the road by having a mechanic ensure that your vehicle is road-worthy. The mechanic should check things like the engine, brakes, fluid levels, belts and hoses, and tire pressure. Remember, and inefficient vehicle also burns more gas. Once you’re on the road, watch your speed. Speeding wastes gas and a ticket will blow the money you’ve set aside for your vacation.
2. AVOID RUSH HOUR
TRAVEL AND ROAD WORK
You want to get where you’re going quickly, safely, and without wasting time and gas sitting in traffic. Check out a site like AccuTraffic, which gives real time traffic conditions and weather forecasts for the entire nation. If rush hour travel is unavoidable, perhaps you can eat a meal or visit a local attraction during that time.
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3. AVOID TOLL ROADS
Toll roads can add significant costs to a trip, especially if you weren’t expecting tolls along the way. Plan ahead to take the scenic route with the help of apps, your vehicle’s GPS, and Internet mapping sites. If you’re not into technology, a road atlas will work well. But do get an updated version. Even an atlas that’s just a few years old will leave you guessing about new streets and roads.
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4. PUT YOUR SMARTPHONE
There really is almost nothing your smartphone can’t do. There’s an app for everything you need for travel. You can plan your trip and find alternate roads with navigation apps like Telenav. If you want to find places to eat that are within your budget and receive good reviews, check out Yelp. Want to track your gas mileage? Try Gas Cubby. And, of course, when you want to find the cheapest gas, head over to GasBuddy.
5. STOP AT STATE
Welcome centers are typically located strategically off major state entry points. Think of the staff as travel consultants. They are knowledgeable about deals, attractions, events, and scenery. The centers may also have coupons for food and lodging.
6. PACK A COOLER
You will run through quite a bit of money if you stop at fast food or sit down restaurants for all your meals and snacks. Take along a cooler of food and drinks. Along with a few favorite treats, pack fruits and vegetables that travel well and are easy to handle like apple slices, bananas, oranges, cherry tomatoes, and celery. Don’t forget paper towels, wet wipes, and a bag for trash.
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7. AVOID THE DRIVE THRU
This isn’t always possible for various reasons, but you can take a bite out of the bill by planning your drive thru meals. Go online before your trip and find printable coupons. It’s easy to find deals like buy one get one free or get a free drink or dessert with the purchase of a sandwich.
8. MAKE LUNCH YOUR
SIT DOWN MEAL
Restaurants typically serve the same meals at lunch as they do at dinner, but for significantly less. If you’re going to sit down for a meal, lunch is the best time to eat the same thing as dinner but save more money. Head to your cooler for evening meals.
9. NEGOTIATE HOTEL RATES
If your travels will take more than a day to complete, it’s best to search for a good hotel rate and book a reservation before you leave town. But plans are always subject to change. If you end up spontaneously stopping at a hotel, try to find one whose parking lot looks a bit empty. They may be eager to fill up rooms. Know what you’re willing to budget for the room and negotiate the price you’re quoted.
10. USE CASH ONLY
Of course, you’ll have some cash in your wallet, but set aside some other petty cash in an envelope for buying knick-knacks and souvenirs. It should be cash because there is no souvenir worth buying now but paying for later. If you use cash designated just for little splurges, you know exactly how much you have to spend. Once you reach your limit, that’s it.
What do you do to save money on a road trip? Share your best ideas below.
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Alexis Trass Walker lives in Gary, Indiana, with her husband and four children. She is a stay at home mom and writer who loves all things chocolate. Read more about Alexis on her blog lilliebelle.org or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.