With gas prices hitting an affordable $2.28 per gallon as of the July 4th weekend (according to AAA), the old family tradition of a summertime road trip becomes much more attractive. Plus it gives everyone lots of time to hang out together and reconnect without the distractions of electronic devices.
When I was growing up, everyone drove to Florida because this is what you do if you live in New Jersey or New York. We could have flown, but the summer road trip was tradition. However, without some careful budgetary planning, your summer road trip could turn into a summer financial headache, whether you are traveling with kids or not. It’s important to have a plan for how to save money on your road trip well before you pile into the car.
Here are 5 easy and impactful ways to have fun and save money on your summer road trip at the same time.
- Prepare the car. A breakdown on the road is not only going to ruin your plans, but it will also ruin your budget. Even if you have roadside assistance insurance, you could potentially lose a day or two, while your car is being repaired, costing you hotel and restaurant fees that you were not anticipating. Get a tune-up, and especially check the tires, including that spare tire in the trunk.
- Load up on snacks and drinks. This is critical if you are traveling with kids. But even grownups get the munchies. Buy bags of ice along the way to keep everything cool. When you do stop for a meal, skip the fast-food places. Look for the neighborhood, mom and pop restaurants, or even better, the truck stops. The meals are affordable, ample and much more nutritious.
- Gasoline. Even though gas prices are pretty affordable right now, you can save more money by extending that fill-up for as long as possible. Avoid routes that will cause you to sit in traffic. Or, travel through high-traffic areas during the off hours, such as early in the morning or at night. Waze and other navigational apps are great for alerting you about traffic congestion, so you can find an alternative route or a little side trip until the congestion clears up. Take advantage of gasoline price apps, such as AAA Mobile and GasBuddy, to help you find the cheapest prices along your route.
- Download Apps. And while we are on the subject of apps, there are some other great digital assistants that will help you save money on your summer road trip. First of all, before you even get started, download the Roadtrippers App. This app will help you to locate all the cool stuff to do along the way, such as hikes, waterfalls, historical locations, etc. The Coupon Sherpa Mobile app will help you find restaurants where the kids can eat for free or at a discounted price. There are many more apps that will guide you to activities, help you find coupons for restaurants and entertainment centers, and more ways to save money on your road trip.
- Plan Ahead. Being spontaneous is not the way to save money on your summer road trip. You can find good bargains on lodging, dining, sightseeing, touring, etc., but only with advanced research and planning. For instance, for lodging, checkout Airbnb, which offers unique accommodations for great prices. Tzimmers and guest houses are another great option. Using your travel app, map out where you will stop each night, and locate all the amenities you will need upon arrival. This is especially critical if you are traveling with children who will be ready to get out of the car. Trying to locate lodging at the last minute could leave you paying a premium price just to keep the kids quiet.