As millions of Americans prepare to hit the road for Thanksgiving weekend, some extra savings could make the journey even sweeter. As you fill up your tank with fuel and grab your map (yes, you should still have a map), you’re going to want to make your trip as cost-effective as possible.
AAA is projecting that more than 54 million Americans will travel home for Thanksgiving, a 4.8% increase over the previous year. National gas prices will reach its highest point for Thanksgiving in four years, with motorists paying an average of $2.79 a gallon, 31 cents more than a year ago.
Before you go to the ATM to drain your bank account for travel expenses, there are several ways to trim your budget.
Here are 10 ways to save money on a road trip
If you plan on hitting the road for the holiday, here are some tips on how to save money along the way:
- Rent a vehicle: You probably planned to drive your own car on vacation, but money expert Clark Howard says you could end up saving money in the long haul if you rent a car. “If you shop and find a good deal on a rental car, you put those trip miles and the depreciation that goes with it on that rental car instead of your own,” he says.
- Check your tire pressure: Want to save on gas? Make sure you’re tires have enough air in them. Don’t trust an eye test, your tires should be set to the recommendations in the owner’s manual.
- Use credit cards with rewards: If you have to swipe your card for expenses, try to get something in return. Use credit cards with cash-back rewards and other perks.
- Pack a lunch: If you’re going to be on the road for a while, it’s a good idea to pack a few snacks. Nothing too complicated and messy (no barbecue ribs or ginormous tacos that spill into your lap), so as not to distract your driving. This will not only save you and your family some pretty nice cash, it will also save you time.
- Download some restaurant apps: If you choose not to pack your own food, you likely will opt to pull over and grab a burger or something similar from a fast-food chain. There’s nothing wrong with that, but why not save money doing it? The BK mobile app has several coupons, including a buy-one-Whopper-get-one-free deal. The McDonald’s app has weekly deals, including a free McCafe with purchase.
- Avoid toll roads: If you want to save a pretty penny, plan your route so that you go around toll roads and highways, which can get expensive.
- Download some fuel station-locator apps: Don’t waste time and money looking for gas pumps while on the road. Apps like GasBuddy.com or Gas Guru can use your location to find cheap gas along your journey.
- Bring a cooler: Nothing wastes time more than having to pull off the interstate and venture into some strange little town for a $2.99 Dasani. Bringing chilled water is a great idea, especially if there happens to be a traffic jam and you find yourself stuck in the middle of nowhere for an hour.
- Skip lodging: If your trip isn’t too long, you can save a bunch of money by not having to secure lodging. Better yet, got family along the way? Pay an overnight visit and catch up.
- Don’t speed: The #1 way to save money on a road trip is to obey the traffic laws. Nothing stinks more than being pulled over and hearing those eight frightening words: “Do you know how fast you were going?” Trust us: The money you save on that ticket could be the difference between the cost of driving vs. flying.