Roadtrippers everywhere are rejoicing in their ability to control costs as the airline industry continues to add fees. These days, everything from carry-on luggage to the privilege of herding your kids down the jetway before the masses will cost you some extra cash.
However, road trips can get pretty pricey too, unless you plan ahead. Consider these 10 money-saving tips before you embark on your next cross-country adventure.
Before you hit the road, research routes and destinations to make the most of your summer vacation. Map out places to visit, popular eateries (consult Food Network for recommendations) and pre-book your accommodations to avoid a no vacancy nightmare. Try using TripIt to keep all details organized in one place, but bring a map in case your GPS goes down.
Save on Gas
Gas has dropped in price by 10 percent since its peak earlier this year, but it’s still pretty expensive at an average of $3.57 per gallon. Avoid the stress of hunting down the cheapest gas by using the CheapGas app to navigate to the most inexpensive fuel available on any route. Also, consider using a credit card that provides travel points or cash back on gas purchases. Consult this list of top gas reward credit cards for suggestions.
Get your tires checked and schedule a tune-up before you hit the open road. This will help you avoid breakdowns that could result in costly repairs with unfamiliar mechanics. There’s nothing worse than cutting your road trip short with a car repair you know was easily preventable.
Save on Dining Out
Chain restaurants abound in roadside towns, making it easy to stop for a quick meal you know you like. Before your trip, find restaurant gift cards at some discount sites, where you can save up to 30 percent at Chili’s, Olive Garden, and Outback Steakhouse, to name a few.
Avoid paying premium prices for trip essentials by packing what you need beforehand. Beach staples like towels and sunscreen cost much more when purchased onsite, as do travel-related gadgets like phone chargers and camera batteries. Ultimately, you don’t want to get stuck paying a pretty penny for something you have sitting at home.
Pit stops are a road trip must, but loading up on convenience store fare will quickly eat into your budget. Pack your own snacks, soda and bottled water in a cooler, and refill with cheap ice from the gas station as needed. That way, you can save your rest stops for more interesting landmarks than the Kum ‘n Go.
Avoid Bottled Beverages
If you run out of refreshments or simply must purchase something from the gas station, opt for fountain drinks over bottled soda. You pay a couple bucks extra for the bottle and receive less soda than when you go for a Big Gulp with ice.
Tell Your Bank
Alert your credit card company about your upcoming road trip and give them destination details so you don’t temporarily lose access to needed funds. Otherwise, most banks and credit card companies will tag frequent, out-of-state charges as fraudulent and put a hold on your account.
I know, sometimes you just want to “get there.” However, studies show that fuel efficiency decreases as your speed increases, making trips more expensive for those with lead feet. Since speeding also increases the potential for pricey tickets, it pays to slow down and enjoy the scenery.
Daily Deal It
Once you establish your route and preferred destinations, look for daily deals in the cities you plan to visit to save on dining, activities, and attractions. You may find unique ways to explore new towns with deals on everything from photo safaris to winery tours.
Andrea Woroch is a nationally recognized consumer and money-saving expert who helps consumers live on less without radically changing their lifestyles. From smart spending tips to personal finance advice, she transforms everyday consumers into savvy shoppers. Woroch has been featured on top news outlets such as Good Morning America, NBC’s Today, MSNBC, New York Times, Kiplinger Personal Finance, and CNNMoney.