Many of us like to travel in the summer. Going on a road trip can be cheaper than flying (and provide more quality time and access to interesting roadside attractions), but the costs still add up. Whether you are saving up for a vacation, or whether you are using your tax refund, you can stretch your dollar a little bit further when you plan ahead and take steps to reduce your expenses.
If you are ready for a family vacation, here are 5 tips that can help you save money on your next road trip:
1. Plan a Staycation
You can save money by staying closer to home instead of planning a long trip. Look for attractions within five to 10 hours of your home and plan a long weekend, instead of a road trip that lasts more than a week. Find out what interesting attractions, from geological features to historical sites to odd roadside stops, are along your route. You might be surprised at what’s in the area.
2. Bring Your Own Food
For $20 to $50 you can get a good cooler that will keep your food at the proper temperature for three to five days. We do this when we travel cross country. We bring deli meats and cheese, condiments, hot dogs, milk and other items in a cooler, making it easy to have a picnic lunch and avoid eating out. We can replenish the cold in our cooler by keeping a gallon sized Ziplock bag stocked with ice from hotels. While we still like to eat out on occasion while traveling, bringing our own food cuts down on food expenses, since we aren’t eating out for every meal.
3. Be Wise About Gas Usage
You can reduce your gas bill by traveling at a moderate speed, instead of going fast. Your car will be more efficient if you travel between 55 and 65 miles per hour instead of going over 70 miles per hour. You can also increase your fuel efficiency by making sure that you are up to date on your car’s service, and that your tires are properly inflated.
4. Map Your Trip
Have a plan. There are a number of free places that can help you find fun attractions and destinations, showing you different ways of getting to where you are going. You can choose scenic routes, or fast routes. Yahoo Trip Planner and the Rand McNally TripMaker Planning Tool are just two great places to turn. Google Maps and Mapquest can also help you plan your trip.
Other tools that can help with trip planning include apps for your smart phone, such as GasBuddy, Urbanspoon, Aloqua, and more.
5. Look for Discounts
Check for different discounts. If you belong to an association (AARP, AAA, etc.), see what discounts are available to members. You can also look for online promo codes to individual attractions (many museums and amusement parks offer discounts online). Go directly to a hotel’s web site, or call the specific hotel you are staying at to see if you can negotiate the lowest available rate. Discounted gift cards can be purchased to help you save money as well when you travel.
If you take some time to look for discounts, and plan out ways to save money, you can have a fun and frugal road trip.