So it’s time to pack up your bags, get the family in the car and head out on a road trip. The family’s psyched and rearing to go. You want to have an awesome time, but in the back of your mind you’re hearing kerching, kerching, as the costs keep going up. Well it doesn’t have to be that way, you can do a family road trip on the cheap and we’re going to show you how, without maxing out the credit card!
Tip 1 – Plan and Budget
A great way to save money is to actually plan ahead. Once you know where you’re going, you’ll be able to budget for fuel, food and accommodation. Being prepared will help you know exactly how many miles you’re going to travel, where you’re going to go, which means you can plan your accommodation and also knowing where you’re going will allow you to plan for food, as in whether you’re making your own or eating out. Here are some great resources to help you plan your trip.
- Rand McNally, Google Maps, and MapQuest show parks, ATM locations, fuel stations, restaurants, and hotels along your route.
- TripIt allows you to create your trip and share it online with friends and family.
- AAA TripTik gives great maps and directions and can show construction and other delays along the way. It also shows you where to find the best fuel prices. Awesome.
- Yahoo Trip Planner is awesome so that you can add all the cities you’re visiting and your length of travel to help plan the journey.
One thing to remember, is that your road trip is meant to be fun, so don’t stick rigidly to your trip plan…expect the unexpected, especially with kids and be prepared to take some time out for some interesting activities.
Tip 2 – Save on Fuel
Here are some top tips to save on fuel.
- Make sure your tyres are properly inflated. Even if they’re slightly deflated this can decrease fuel mileage.
- Pack light. Tough one with the kids, but check those bags and make sure you need everything. The more weight in your car, the worse your mileage.
- Maintain a steady speed. You get the best fuel usage at 60 miles per hour. If you’ve got it use cruise control on the highway to keep a constant speed.
- To avoid using more fuel don’t accelerate fast and brake fast. This uses more fuel.
- If you can avoid rush hour traffic.
- Get out those hiking shoes, park and go and explore, instead of using the car to explore. It’s a far better experience.
- Look for fuel stations away from the highway. The ones that are next to the highway are far more expensive.
Besides saving on fuel, make sure your car is in good nick before you go, as you don’t want any unexpected maintenance costs.
Tip 3 – Food Glorious Food
Food costs have a way of creeping up and up. In the beginning as you’re all rearing to go, you eat packed sandwiches every day. Day 5, boredom sets in and no one wants to see a packed sandwich anywhere near them. The boredom will lead to eating out probably for breakfast, lunch and supper to get a bit variety in the old diet! So how do you do it? Well you add a bit of variety…as they say ‘variety is the spice of life.’ So do a bit of research on where you’re going, look for cool inexpensive delis and restaurants that you can eat at. TripAdvisor is the way to go for this. So mix it up, where you eat at inexpensive restaurants occasionally, have the odd packed sandwich lunch and but some great things for breakfast on the go. This will save you a ton as eating out all the time is going to max out that credit card. Keep plenty of snacks on you to beat off the starvation and when you’re shopping make sure you go to a grocery store and not a convenience store. Convenience stores are way more expensive.
Do some internet digging and you’ll be able to find plenty of websites that offer discounts on meals and you can literally download an e-coupon to your phone. Check out the areas you’ll be visiting and hunt out those great discounts. Groupon and Scoutmob offer brilliant deals, and if you’re travelling with the kids you can often find discount, or free meals, for kids under 12.
In Australia you can get loads of restaurant discounts through Cudo. You can also pay for the Entertainment Book (which costs approximately $60) for the city you are travelling to. It works in Australia and New Zealand and it gives you over 1000 two for one deals in restaurants and entertainment.
Tip 4 – Accommodation on the Cheap
Well it goes without saying that camping is the way to go, as it’s so cheap and is actually a great experience for the kids as they meet loads of other kids on their travels too. Plus you’ll be in awesome surroundings and this will give you the opportunity for epic family adventures as you explore.
If you really have to stay in a hotel, for whatever reason, again scour the internet and look for great deals, of which there are plenty. If you’re in North America, you can consider joining AAA as they offer great discounts on pretty much all the hotels and of course have roadside assistance which isn’t a bad thing. Also if you’re booking a hotel, get one double room, instead of two inter leading ones, as it’s much cheaper, and have a good old camp out indoors with roll out beds on the floor.
Tip 5 – Sightseeing
Of course no trip is complete without a bit of sightseeing. There are plenty of ways to save money. Firstly you can experience the great outdoors, especially when it comes to National Parks and places with amazing scenery.
Also, before you head out check out the local tourism sites of the places you want to go…they will give you ideas of free things to do. Check out the museums and see if they offer free days; most of them do.
Try and travel during summer as you’re bound to come across free fairs, festivals, concerts and so much more.
So there are out top tips to having a cool road trip on a budget. Do you have any other budget saving advice for a roadtrip?
If you’re really keen on saving some dollars, check if you’ve got any long lost family in the area and ask to stay a night or two!