A family road trip can be an amazing adventure, a bonding experience of memories that will last a lifetime. Some of my son’s most memorable vacations were road trips, sometimes even weekend trips in the summer. With road trips, you have the luxury to determine your own course. With planning, you give yourself time to meander and discover new and interesting, often off-the-beaten-path sights. While the dream vacations are amazing, the charm of the family road trip can be just as memorable, just as fun, and often much more affordable. A true memory builder.
The following 7 tips will get you starting planning your next road trip adventure this summer.
1. Free Travel App Planning
When it comes to planning your summer road trip, be sure to check out free apps. Here is one to view. Download the app Roadtrippers (free for iOS, Android). Not only will it save you money by helping you find lodging deals, but it’ll keep you organized and let you plan your trek one day at a time.
Once planned, you can even share your road trip across devices and with friends so they can add itinerary suggestions to make it even more memorable. Perhaps the coolest feature of the app is the ability to help you find quirky roadside attractions as you approach them. After all, any experienced road tripper will tell you that some of the most memorable moments are made when finding fun stops along the way to your final destination.
2. Book Hotels Directly and Save
When planning your summer trip this year, consider calling hotels directly to book your room. Online booking sites like Expedia and Orbitz charge hotels a 10%–15% fee, so many hotels would rather bypass these sites entirely and book directly with you. But before you call, check the travel sites to see the hotel’s current rate. Then when you call, politely ask if the hotel can beat that rate by 10%. In many cases, they’ll happy beat their online rate and even throw in some free upgrades like a better room or beverage and food credits.
3. Pack Food When Possible
You may need to stop at a restaurant or fast food joint from time to time, but don’t underestimate the benefits of bringing a cooler full of food on your road trip. Load up on high-energy snack foods such as trail mix, meal staples like sandwich fixings and fruit, and plenty of beverages. Even if you regularly have to buy ice to keep your perishables cool, the $2 cost per bag pales in comparison to the price of feeding a family of four at a restaurant or convenience store for every meal. Plan a few special destination meals and save on the fast food when possible.
4. AAA Premier Membership
There’s no arguing the fact that an AAA membership provides great peace of mind when hitting the road for a long trip, especially with a family. Emergency roadside assistance like towing after a breakdown, tire changes, and battery jumpstarts are just a few of their useful services. But when planning a long summer road trip, look into upgrading to the AAA Premier membership for $124 annually, up from $56 for the Classic membership. This is because Premier comes with up to 200 miles of towing, $1,500 for meals/lodging in the event of a breakdown, and 100 miles of emergency medical transportation. And, the AAA discounts really add up when booking hotels, airfare, rental cars, etc. Always ask if there is an additional AAA discount when you arrive at your destination.
5. GasBuddy App
If you’re not arming your smartphone with the GasBuddy app (free for iOS and Android) before you leave home, you’re bound to overpay at the pump. Not only does the app help you find the cheapest gas stations along your journey, but you’ll even earn points for reporting gas prices that could you score you a free $100 gas card.
6. Kids, Cash and Souvenirs
If you are bringing your children on the road trip, encourage them to spend wisely. Give each child a set amount of cash before you leave home, and explain that they can spend the money however they like while on the trip (age appropriately, of course). By encouraging them to spend thoughtfully, you’ll be teaching a valuable life lesson while having fun and building forever memories. It also helps to preserve the travel fund instead of depleting it on souvenirs.
7. Find Free Attractions
Perhaps the best way to save money on your next family road trip is to search for free, or almost free, attractions and activities that everyone will love. One way to do this is a website called RoadTripRadar. It’s filled with attractions and places to visit. Indicate how far you’re willing to travel off your route to see attractions, choosing the types of attractions you’re interested in like museums, parks, farms, outdoor play areas, hiking trails, and camping — many of which are completely free of charge. Research your route ahead of time and see what the towns along your route have to offer. Small towns can have some of the best and most memorable things to see.
How do you save money when you load up the car and head out on a long road trip?