According to AAA, nearly 80% of Americans hit the open road each summer for a family vacation. If you are too, just keep in mind that while you may be saving money over costly flights and en route hotel stays, there’s still opportunity to shave even more off your road-trip travel costs. Here’s how:
Service Your Vehicle
First things first: your car must be able to handle the trip. At a minimum, that may require taking a trip to the service shop for a break inspection, tune-up, oil change, and topping-off critical fluids.
“To avoid the hassle and cost of auto repair expenses mid-trip, service your car before you leave,” advises money-saving expert, Kendal Perez. “I’m clueless about car repair, so I have professionals replace the oil and filter, top off fluids, and make sure my tire pressure is at optimal levels. It also gives me peace of mind that my car is in good shape ahead of a long drive.”
Before you head to the shop, do yourself a favor a do a quick search online or through your stack of coupons for the best deals. There are plenty of them out there this time of year, and you may be able to double up on discounts if you have built-in savings through memberships like AAA, cash-back deals from your bank or an app, or your credit card provider.
Overloading your car with heavy bags reduces your fuel efficiency and makes your road trip less comfortable. Instead, pack light and leave room for a few inexpensive and lightweight tchotchkes from your travels. And if you really want to save, then use photographs of your road trip your as inexpensive framed souvenirs.
Convenience stores are the worst place to buy food and drink; you pay exorbitant markups for subpar cuisine. You can save money and physical discomfort — all those Hot Cheetos and Kit Kats will do a number on your stomach — by purchasing your favorite snacks ahead of time from a supermarket or bulk goods store like Costco.
Adds Perez, “Buy a pack of bottled water from the store to bring as well, or bring a couple reusable water bottles to fill up at gas stations. This alone will save you $2 to $4 per bottle!”
Time Your Departure
I was married once to someone who always wanted to leave for a road trip at peak rush hour — and it was the most GD frustrating thing in the world. Unless you enjoy screaming at each other in the car, then sitting in silence ignoring each other for hours, it’s better to plan your departure smartly. You’ll get out of town quicker by leaving early in the morning or late at night, thereby also saving yourself extra money on gas wasted from sitting in traffic. Before you leave, check Google Maps or Waze to find out how long the trip will take.
Use Cruise Control
“Frequent acceleration and deceleration reduces your fuel efficiency, so take advantage of your vehicle’s cruise control. Cruise control can also maintain your speed near the speed limit and help you avoid pricey speeding tickets,” says Perez.
Don’t Wait to Refuel
If you’re an I-just-want-to-get-there kind of road tripper, you probably wait until the last minute to refuel. However, being more strategic about where you fill up can help you save money. If you put it off, you may have to fuel up at a gas station in the middle of nowhere that charges a premium. Instead, use an app like GasBuddy to find the cheapest fuel, wherever you are.
Prepare For the Worst
Life happens, but nobody wants hiccups when they’re on a road trip, far from home with the children. Hedge your bets, says car expert, Scott Chesrown. “Before you leave, download the Honk app or the AAA app. It’s unlikely you’ll need roadside assistance but planning ahead can downgrade a travel nightmare to a minor snafu.”
Photo Credit: iainmerchant