Road trips are one of the most popular ways to travel during the summer. Thanks to record-low fuel costs, more Americans than ever are planning to hit the road this season to getaway.
While driving is often considered the more affordable travel option, there are plenty of expenses that need to be planned and budgeted for to make the most of the trip.
Here are eight ways to prep for a memorable and cheaper road trip.
Plan your route
Depending on where you’re headed and how much time you will spend on the road, research things to see and do along your route. You’ll also want to plan overnight stops in cities with the most affordable hotel options. Download the Roadtrippers App to find fun places to stop and cool sites to see based on your location and direction. The app also provides restaurant and hotel recommendations based on your budget.
Service your vehicle
Getting your car serviced before you head out on the big open road is important to avoid a possible breakdown. After all, you don’t waste time and face overpriced mechanical repairs! Schedule a routine maintenance check and make sure you have a spare tire, jack and jumper cables in case of an emergency. You also want to check that tires are properly inflated as this ensures fuel efficiency and will help you save on gas.
Compare gas prices
Even though fuel prices are at record lows, you’re going to use a lot of it so it’s important to find ways to save on this expense. Find the cheapest gas station along your route by comparing prices at GasBuddy.com and use their free app on the go. Otherwise, take advantage of grocery and retail gas reward programs like Safeway’s Gas Reward Points for up to $1 off a price per gallon at Exxon or Mobil.
Call your bank or credit card
With hacking at an all-time high, banks and credit card companies have heightened fraud protection services and are keeping a close watch for irregular activity. Charging expenses through multiple cities in a single day is often a red flag for fraud! Give your bank and credit card company a heads-up about your travel plans so they don’t limit access to your funds and leave you in a precarious position while traveling. You’ll also want to keep some cash handy in case of emergencies.
USA TODAY says that road trippers can expect to spend approximately $20 for breakfast, $5 for a gas station snack and between $10 to $50 for dinner. Instead of wasting money on such average-tasting food, pack a cooler with drinks, sandwiches and other foods to nibble on to keep you and your family satisfied until you arrive at your final destination. Bring along a reusable water bottle to refill at rest stops and don’t forget car chargers for your phone so you don’t run out of juice when snapping pictures or trying to navigate.
Research dining deals
While it’s important to scale down on eating out when traveling by packing snacks and making some of your own meals, it’s always fun to try a few new restaurants. Prepare ahead by reviewing daily deals sites like LivingSocial or Groupon for restaurant savings of up to 60% off in the cities you’re traveling too. You can also find discount dining certificates at Restaurant.com. Just make sure you don’t overbuy or you may get stuck with deals you can’t use.
Bring membership cards
If you or a friend or family member along for the ride is an AAA member, you can score all sorts of deals at hotels, restaurants and activities. For families with a college-aged kid, make sure he or she brings along that student ID to take advantage of any discounts available at restaurants, museums, national parks and so on. See this list of 101 student discounts to help navigate you to savings on your road trip.
Track mobile data use
Using navigation tools, streaming music, posting pictures on social media and researching restaurant or hotel reviews will not only drain your battery, it will also drain your data! Stay on top of your data use to avoid pricey overage charges by setting alerts using apps like 3GWatchdog. Then, minimize data use by turning off app push notifications and download maps or music using your home or hotel’s free Wi-Fi so you have access to them on the road. Don’t forget to enable your Wi-Fi locator so you can find free connections en route.
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