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Practical Money Matters: Save on summer road trip adventures


Last updated 6/8/2018 at 12:18pm

TEMECULA – Are you packing up your car and hitting the road this summer? You’re not alone. According to a survey conducted by AAA, road trips are the most popular type of vacation for families in the U.S. in 2017. In fact, 10 percent more families are expected to take road trips this year than last.

From driving to the tip of Cape Cod, to seeing the Great Lakes all the way to a drive through the Yosemite Valley in California, there are limitless ways to explore on the road. Whether going to visit family or taking off on an epic adventure, a road trip can be a great way to make travel about the journey rather than the destination.

Before hitting the road, travelers should make sure their car can handle the trip. Before packing up the car, it’s a good idea to take the car to a mechanic and ensure that it’s ready for the drive. Having the car inspected and serviced by a mechanic before a road trip can be a worthwhile investment that could both save money and prevent an untimely breakdown. Looking into a rental car is an alternative to consider to avoid wear and tear that might depreciate a car’s value. Consider the options carefully and choose what makes most financial sense.

Pack for bumps along the way. A flat tire or dead battery can put a serious damper on a road trip, especially if not prepared. Keeping a spare tire in the car and checking the tire pressure and tread should be on the pre-trip checklist. Along with any bags, bring a few items for preventive maintenance measures on the road. Having jumper cables, coolant and engine oil handy can save time and money.

Map out the trip ahead of time. While just jumping in the car and driving without a set destination can be an enticing idea, the spontaneity will likely result in more expenses. Knowing when and where to stop ahead of time, especially for hotels and outings, will help roadtrippers stick to a budget. Still craving the more adventurous aspects of a road trip? Make a general plan for the major excursions and routes, while stopping for unexpected attractions and views along the way.

Comparison shop to keep hotel prices under control. Booking ahead of time and using comparison shopping websites will save time from driving around to find the best hotel deal while already tired from a long drive. To book last-minute rooms, consider using hotel coupon books, hotel-booking apps, group coupon sites or reward points to save a little more. Camping could be another alternative to booking a hotel, which can be particularly cheap if the family already has gear like tents and sleeping bags.

Managing mileage could add up to major savings. Though fuel prices may generally be down, the cost of filling up the tank can still add up. To make this cost more manageable, take advantage of apps that help find the best gas prices in the area. In certain cases, consider renting a more fuel-efficient car. Travelers can save even more by mapping their trip ahead of time to avoid road tollways and construction that might slow them down.

Keep children entertained to avoid unnecessary stops. Children tend to get antsy in the back seat, which can lead to more frequent stops and a few impulse buys if not prepared. Packing snacks and meals ahead of time can help families avoid making extra purchases at the gas station and will often be cheaper.

Also have a plan for keeping children entertained. Let them choose a few activates ahead of time, like preparing a road trip playlist or making a game like road trip bingo with sights they’ll be seeing along the way. If they have a tablet or phone, downloading free games, podcasts or movies can be another great option.

Protect the home while away. One other way to save on a road trip is to ensure that the home is protected while the family is gone. If possible, ask a trusted neighbor, friend or family member to keep an eye on the house. If not, find someone to help and call the post office to place a vacation hold on the mail.

Double-check that all doors and windows are locked, including the garage door, and that the home alarm is set and put the lights are on a timer.

The bottom line is that road trips can be an adventurous and inexpensive way to see the country, but costs can add up if underprepared. Planning stops and packing to anticipate needs could help travelers enjoy the ride rather than worry about the expenses.

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This article is intended to provide general information and should not be considered legal, tax or financial advice. It’s always a good idea to consult a legal, tax or financial advisor for specific information on how certain laws apply to individual financial situations.


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