Planning a road trip before school starts or the schedules get too crazy? I've got 3 road trip tips to help you save.
Road trip tips (1)
Research road construction and slow downs on your route.
Most states have a website that will warn you of road construction on your route. In Michigan, you can check mdotnetpublic.state.mi.us/ drive/. You can also download Michigan's driving app that informs motorists of road and traffic conditions in real time. Get it on Google Play or at the App Store. Details available at michigan.gov/mdot.
Once you know about issues on your route, you can choose the smartest way to go. A way that might normally be slower and take more time may actually be the better choice this trip; saving both time and gas.
If you don't have time to research, or you don't want to add another app to your mobile device, use your mobile phone's GPS – even if you know exactly how to get where you're going. It will warn you of traffic slowdowns due accidents or construction so you can go around before you get stuck.
Road trip tips (2)
Plan your stops.
You're going to need gas, something to eat, and the restroom at some point – so plan when you'll stop by estimating drive time. For example, if you know your kids won't last more than 2 hours at a stretch, figure out what city or general area is 2 hours up the road. By carefully planning, you can perform 3 money-saving tricks all at once:
– Get gas at the lowest price. Using an app like GasBuddy will help you pick the least expensive station in the area you're planning to stop. By simply knowing that another 10 miles up the road, gas is 7 cents cheaper, you can save and still stop in the general area you planned. Check out gasbuddy.com for details about their app which is available on multiple platforms.
– Get a deal on food. Whether you get a full meal or just a snack, buying a discounted gift card for where you'll stop can save you a lot of money. Check out Giftcardzen.com, powered by Retailmenot.com for a wide selection. Also, search for coupons. Many national chain restaurants – even fast food ones – put out coupons that are good all over, or at least good in the state they are issued, so search for them before hitting the road.
– Stay within a snack and drink budget. Besides buying discounted gift cards, there are two tried-and-true ways to save on snacks and drinks.
- Method #1: Bring your own and plan a stop – like at a nice rest area to eat. Make sure you to involve the whole family in planning the foods and snacks, otherwise, they won't even come close to the allure of restaurants whizzing past. Buy special treats that really build up excitement. Log in to SavingsAngel.com to find out about the best deals on treats for the road.
- Method #2: Set a specific budget per person. If buying snacks and drinks on the road is a part the joy of road trips for your family, give each person a specific total they can spend. This will eliminate expensive choices – which can quickly add up to as much as eating a full meal out. Each person will be motivated to stretch their small treat budget as far as possible. Plus, you'll know ahead of time exactly how much you're going to drop on this part of the trip. By planning where you're going to stop, you can also set expectations of what will be available to choose from, so your family doesn't waste 30 minutes in the gas station making decisions.
Road trip tips (3)
Improve your fuel economy in hot weather.
The US Department of Energy states that running your air conditioning in the vehicle can reduce fuel efficiency by up to 25%. But driving with your windows down at high speeds isn't better – not to mention the pressure on your eardrums.
To reduce the pull on your fuel efficiency, they recommend the following:
(1) Don't use the AC more than needed, or set the temperature as warm as you can stand;
(2) Park in the shade or use a sunshade so the cabin doesn't get as hot;
(3) Drive with the windows open for a short time to let hot air out of the cabin before turning on the AC;
(4) Don't idle with the AC on before driving.
For additional tips on increasing fuel economy, visit fueleconomy.gov.