Are you planning to hit the road over Memorial Day weekend? You’ll have plenty of company (an estimated more than 37 million people), as post-pandemic travel rebounds.
Money expert Clark Howard says he will be among the throngs of people getting behind the wheel to head toward some much-needed rest and relaxation.
In this article, I’ll share some of Clark’s travel tips to help you save time and money this Memorial Day weekend.
1. Make Sure Your Car Is Road-Ready
Before you head off on your journey, it’s always a good idea to make sure your car is in good shape and operating safely. Safety first, of course, but you also don’t want to waste your resources dealing with car trouble during your holiday.
Test Your Car Battery
Make sure your battery is operating properly before you hit the road.
If you’ve planned far enough in advance, you’ll have time to compare prices before you replace your car battery. Here are the best places to buy a car battery based on costs, warranties and more.
Check Your Tire Pressure
Check your tire pressure using a tire inflation gauge. You may be able to find one at your local Walmart for around $4. Or you may choose to visit an automotive store and ask the salesperson to check your air pressure for free.
If you’re more of a DIY person, here’s where to get free air (more on tire pressure in a bit).
2. Look for Ways To Save Gas
One of the main expenses of a road trip is gasoline. Clark says if you’re traveling up the East Coast, you can expect higher gas prices this year because of the temporary shutdown of the Colonial Pipeline.
“For people on the Eastern Seaboard, the gas supplies are slowly rebuilding, but prices are quite a bit higher,” says Clark. “In fact, they’re up to not quite — but almost — double where gas prices were a year ago, so the fuel in the tank is going to set you back some.”
How To Save Gas:
- Keep Your Tires Filled Properly: The right tire pressure can boost your fuel economy anywhere from 0.6% to 3%, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
- Use a Fuel Efficient Vehicle: If you have a choice, opt for the more fuel-efficient car to take on the road. The better the fuel economy, the more bang you’ll get for your gas dollar.
3. Save Time by Using Off-Interstate Roadways
Because the interstates are expected to be filled with cars, Clark says he’s opting for alternative routes that may take longer but will likely be less congested.
“For my trip, I’ve plotted out a route of four-lane divided highways that are not interstates,” he says. “I’m going to twist and turn and wind my way to and from my destination, which is about six hours away. My plan is to almost completely avoid the interstate system.”
Many states have little-used and mostly unknown four-lane divided highways that can come in handy for travelers trying to get from Point A to Point B, he adds.
“They’re not really designed to be used the way I use them in any holiday period, going from one state to another,” Clark says. “But I’m able to make it work with a great deal of turns, and it saves me a lot of time and creates a reliable trip.”
Clark says he learned about these roadways on a trip right after Thanksgiving about 20 years ago. “Ever since then in any holiday period, I’ve been all about using the secondary four-lane divided highways as a way to get around,” he says.
If You Take These Roadways:
- Use Apps To Locate Alternative Routes: Here are some digital tools to help you find your way.
- In Apple’s Maps app, (for iOS only) you can choose a setting to avoid tolls and/or interstates.
- Google Maps (for iOS and Android) will always show you the quickest route in blue and a secondary route in gray. The secondary route will typically take longer.
- On Waze (for iOS and Android), once you type in your destination, tap “Routes” at the bottom of the screen to see alternative tours in list or map view.
4. Watch Your Speed
“Be careful with your speed,” Clark says. Speeding could cause your annual auto insurance premium to increase by $355 on average!
Clark points out that, in these small towns, “You’ll see a lot of flashing lights because the speed limits drop quickly. And if you don’t follow them, next thing you know, you got a local police officer pulling in revenue for their community.” He adds, “I’m not in that business of turning that revenue over.”
Clark recommends that you consider renting a car instead of driving your own vehicle.
“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,” Clark says.