This summer, many Americans will turn to road trips as a way to enjoy a vacation without the high prices or tedium of airline travel. However, much of these savings can quickly evaporate, as the slower pace of travel can mean that road-trippers spend more on food and lodging than they would otherwise. Thankfully, anyone looking to vacation on a budget can follow the advice of experienced road warriors when setting out on their next journey.
As with all travel advice, most of the hard work begins at home. Begin with the vehicle itself, which should be given a thorough tune-up before hitting the road; tire pressure has a big impact on gas mileage, for example, and breaking down in a strange city can be an expensive nightmare. In addition, it’s usually a good idea to conduct some research on the route you’ll take, with an emphasis on breaking up the monotony of driving with fun excursions and pit stops.
One of the biggest advantages of traveling by car is that you’ll avoid the airlines’ pesky baggage fees. However, you’ll still need to put a little thought into packing. To ensure you don’t forget any necessities, create a checklist of everything you need and bring it along; nothing slows down a road trip like leaving behind a cell phone or camera, so consider going through the list after each stop.
One of the biggest hidden costs on the road is snack expenditures, so instead of buying expensive and tiny bags of chips at gas stations, consider buying snacks in bulk at your local grocery store prior to the trip. When you need a meal, fast food is usually the cheapest option, but keep an eye out for mom-and-pop diners, too. Their prices are often competitive with fast food, and you’ll likely get more meal for your dollar. Local restaurants are also a great place to ask around about the cheapest hotel or gas station in town. For the latter, you can also rely on websites and smartphone apps like GasBuddy.com and Gas Guru.
Finally, and most importantly, remember to drive safely, as a speeding ticket or an accident will erase all the savings you’ve realized by opting for a road trip.