When it comes to the season of thankfulness, you might not feel as thankful for the cost surrounding that road trip to be with family. While I can’t quash the expense entirely, I can offer you a few ways to save money along the way.
No matter where you are heading, it’s a good idea to plan your route ahead of time. While the fastest distance between two points is a straight line, it’s not always the cheapest way to go. When you take the time to plan your route, you might find that you can avoid that sometimes treacherous mountain pass by going a short distance out of your way, thus eliminating the need to purchase chains. Perhaps you’ll be able to eliminate the need to use toll roads (that alone can save you quite a bit). You’ll also have the ability to steer clear of resort-type areas that will cost more when it comes to gas, snacks, and lodging along your way.
There’s nothing worse than heading out on a road trip, only to find that the weather won’t cooperate. Check the weather along your route several times over the days leading up to your trip. Will it be sunny, or should you expect several feet of snow? Has the area been dealing with an unexpected cold front? Is it likely that roads will be closed? Are there weather advisories in place?
By checking the weather, you decrease the likelihood that you’ll be stranded between home and your destination with only expensive lodging options (or no availability at all), increased cost of meals you didn’t plan on, and more.
One of the simple ways to save money on a road trip is to drive at night. Not only are there fewer people on the road, but with the whole family sleeping in the car, you can save on lodging, and you won’t have to stop as frequently for snacks and bathroom breaks.
If you are embarking on a multi-day road trip to your final destination, it might be easy to book a motel along the way, but why not consider staying with family or friends? When you plan your route out ahead of time, consider who you might know along the way and use it as an opportunity to catch up with them while also enjoying free lodging. The savings might add up to several hundred dollars, depending on how long you are gone.
Once you reach your final destination, the same rings true. Of course, you might prefer to be in a hotel and have some space from family, but if it’s only for a few days, the money-saving might be worth crashing on the couch in someone’s living room.
One of the best ways to save money on car trips is to pack snacks and even full meals in a cooler. When you purchase them ahead of time at your grocery store, not only do you save money, but you don’t have to spend money on or time finding restaurant food along the way.
My family enjoys making sandwiches ahead of time and then portioning chips and veggies into sandwich bags so that all we have to do is grab them from the stash when we are hungry. You might include a few comfort items in the form of cookies or candy bars, as well. Either way, when you stop at that gas station convenience store, you won’t be tempted to spend double or triple the price on snacks.
Tip: If you do choose to stop for drinks, consider purchasing those from the fountain instead of in bottles. The cost will be significantly lower for the same (or very similar) product.
Someone has to pee, but it’s not time to fill up with gas just yet? Consider stopping at a rest area instead of pulling into town. You’ll save the time of finding a business with a public restroom as well as the temptation of needing to buy something because you used their bathroom.
Allow your family to use the bathroom and then hand out some snacks from your cooler. It’s a win-win for everyone!
One of the most significant expenses of a road trip can come in the form of car problems. Make sure your car is in working order before you leave town by replacing the oil, purchasing new wiper blades, and ensuring your spare tire is in good condition. Most importantly, increase your gas efficiency by making sure your tire pressure is where it should be. (Don’t just eyeball it – actually check!)
When you’ve been on the road for a long time, it’s tempting to rush to your final destination. While it might be easy to floor the accelerator and make great time, don’t do so at the risk of getting a speeding ticket. Not only will the ticket put a dent in next month’s budget, but it might just become the talk of the Thanksgiving dinner table.
Related post: Budgeting for the Holiday Season
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