Friday, June 17, 2016

Road Trip Money Saving Tips I've Found...

They will want to do this every day. Probably not a good way to save money...
Wow. There is A LOT of information out there on money saving travel tactics. Too much for me to possibly read every article, but I have tried to keep notes on the various tips that I think apply to MY road trip. 

After a bit of research, I've pulled together a list of the everything that I think will help me not spend a million dollars this summer. And of course I thought that I'd share all of it with YOU! You're welcome.

1. Use an app to find the cheapest gas prices.

From what I can see, GasBuddy is the best known app, but it's crowdsourced. People post the prices they pay at the pump and GasBuddy lists the gas stations in your area so you find the one with the lowest price. Seems like a lot of work (I mean I'd to type numbers and all...) and how do I know all of the stations in my area are included (what about the one that's invisible to everyone but me)? The incentive for sharing
 prices after pumping is a weekly drawing for a $100 gas card. You get points every time you post a price, and once you hit a certain number you're eligible for the drawing. To me, it sounds like one of those frequent customer cards that get lost at the bottom of my purse after being stamped a few times. But with Gas Buddy, there is no guarantee that you'll get a free 12 oz. fro yo after 10 purchases. The only reason why I even mention GasBuddy is that it's the most popular app and I thought I'd explain why I don't plan to use it.

Really, all of the apps I found through extensive (five minutes of) research seem to require some level of work on the user end. ALL BUT Gas Guru. This app draws its gas price information from the Oil Price Information Service and then provides directions to the cheapest stations. Simple, accurate and includes the invisible gas stations. I am willing to give up my one in 5,000 chance of winning a $100 gas card for this one.

2. Join AAA. 

I am mainly doing this for roadside assistance, but as far as savings go, AAA does offer travel discounts on hotels, restaurants and attractions.

3. Check out local deal sites (Groupon, Living Social, Yelp, Travel Zoo, etc.) upon (or before) arrival.

Looking up the local deals for a destination could get you discounts on some activities you planned to do AND introduce you to other attractions that didn't come up in your original research. This would also be helpful in saving some money on restaurant meals (which are inevitable as I don't think my kids can handle five weeks of packed peanut butter sandwiches and granola bars). I'm checking those sites now (about a month before travel) and will do a last minute check right before we arrive at each destination. If you are traveling to the DC area, we have a GREAT family deals site: (they cover a few other cities, but DC is the HQ and offers tons of deals). I'm checking each city to see if they have something similar.

4. Plan packed meal menus in advance and then shop as necessary at grocery stores. 

Some of our hotels have mini refrigerators or even small kitchens. Depending on the appliances at our disposal, I plan to do as much packed lunch and in-room eating as possible. We'll also keep a cooler in the car for driving days. No need to buy ice since it's free at the hotel! As much as I love eating out, this this road trip is not supposed to be a culinary tour of the U.S. So I will suck it up and eat the homemade sandwiches and carrot sticks.

5. Research special discounts for attractions that may not be listed on their websites. 

Sometimes you can buy discount tickets or vouchers in advance. Last year, my mother in law bought our tickets to the San Diego Legoland with discount vouchers from Carl Jr. It as something like one free child's ticket with each adult admission. This was a huge savings. Not that I'm planning to go to theme parks on this trip...except for Legoland of course, because the kids know it is there. Note to self: remind grandma that she has to grab another meal at Carl Jr....

6. Look up free apps for museum self guided tours.

My kids probably can't handle an hour of listening to a guided tour - or even standing still for more than a minute. So I'm trying to avoid those. Instead I'll rely on maps and brochures AND self guided tour apps if available.

7. Check to see if museums and other attractions have free admission days.

I'm totally doing this as I research each stop! And the free day is always a day we won't be in town. Obviously. BUT it doesn't hurt to check.

Note on the subject of museum admission: Many museums offer reciprocity for admission to affiliated museums. So it might be worth it to purchase a membership to one if that cost will be less than several different tickets. That said - this requires a level of research that makes my brain hurt, so I won't investigating reciprocity any further.

8. Back to gas...

I see a lot of tips for how to save money on gas WHILE you're driving, so I figured I'd better list them here before I forget and don't do them:

- Pack light. I'll have to add an -er to "light" since we are going to be living out of our car for five weeks. But it's a good reminder that I don't need to pack ALL of our stuff. I'll try to be very strategic about what constitutes a "necessity."
- Pay attention to speed limit signs. Driving the speed limit is better for gas mileage (so I've read) AND I won't get an expensive speeding ticket.  
- Have directions on hand (for me that means GPS). Getting lost adds miles.
- Comparison shop gas prices. See #1 above.

9. Create a trip budget and track spending. 

Ever look at your credit card statement and think "NO WAY did I spend that much last month!" and then you actually scan though the line items and...yeah. I will be keeping receipts and tallying totals of what I spend each day because math does not happen in my head. If it's not on paper, I will assume I "didn't spent that much." It's not enough for me to try eat as cheaply as possible - I have to maintain budget for food each day. And yes - just thinking about it is painful for me. I am also setting up a general budget in advance where all expenses will be addressed. This is currently in process since I'm still researching some destinations, So I may have to go back and make some cuts in activities and attractions if it looks like we'll be spending too much. Not my favorite part of planning this trip...but necessary.

Much like my budget at the moment...this list is in process. If I come up with any other good ideas for ways I can save money, I will add them here! In the meantime, feel free to comment of message me with your own tips. And if you say anything about GasBuddy I will unfriend you on Facebook. OH YES. I will.

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