According to a recent Vacationer survey, 80 percent of Americans plan to take a road trip this summer. Summer travel is on the rise in general, with over 80 percent planning to travel in one form for another, which is up from last year’s results of 68 percent.
Many of us assume that a road trip will be a budget-friendly vacation idea, but the expense of gas and food & beverages on the road can cost more than we anticipate.
I consulted with top travel experts and found a slew of ways to save money on your summer road trip during your adventures on the open road.
Stock Up on Snacks
Travel writer Christina Valhouli avoids buying potentially overpriced snacks at gas stations and roadside convenience stores.
“I stock up on snacks from my local supermarket or Costco before a trip. I make individual sized portions in Ziploc bags and pass them around the car.”
She uses clothespins to securely close bags of snacks, as they are sturdier and less expensive than chip clips.
Keep snacks cool and fresh in a soft-sided cooler bag. Why soft instead of hard? It’s light enough to carry with you on an impromptu picnic and collapsible when not in use so it doesn’t take up unnecessary space in the car.
Another handy must-have is a waterproof blanket. They are great for impromptu picnics and are useful in the car for cozy napping.
Save with Apps
Gabe Saglie, a travel expert from Travelzoo, recommends the free Travelzoo app, which geo-targets your location to showcase exclusive deals at nearby restaurants. He said,
“These deals — which can include everything from mimosa breakfasts to specially curated multi-course dinners — are vetted, tested, and represent significant savings.”
You can also save time and money with the Waze app.
Not only does Waze provide crowdsourced navigation, but you can also use it to search for gas stations and choose based on the pricing that the app provides.
If you want to save time on the road, Tammilee Tillison of the Tammilee Tips blog suggests ordering snacks and other road trip essentials from the CVS Pharmacy app during breakfast while at the hotel or campground.
She says “You can use the app to access great deals through their ExtraCare Rewards Program wherever you are, and easily make your shopping list accordingly, If the local store has curbside pickup, you can quickly pick up your items on the way to your next destination.”
Related Post: The Best Money-Saving Apps
Look for Perks
Saglie also suggested being strategic when you book your hotel.
“If you’re on a multi-day road trip, look for hotels where breakfast comes standard with your stay, the option to grab a meal before you hit the road again can be a big money-saver.”
Many hotels will feed your kids for free, or at a discount, he said. “At Fairmont hotels, for example, kids age 5 and under eat free from the children’s menu, and kids ages 6 to 12 eat for half price when ordering off the regular menu. Four Seasons and Starwood/Marriott hotels have similar programs.”
He also suggests taking advantage of the free morning coffee service at many hotels. Some hotels also offer wine in the evenings.
“Kimpton hotels offer a complimentary wine hour every day at 5 p.m., and Embassy Suites hotels feature complimentary managers’ cocktail receptions, which are an effective way to save on your night out,”
Fill Up on Joe
Don Munsil co-owner of the vacation planning website MouseSavers.com, suggested filling a thermos with coffee before you leave the house on day one of your trip.
“You can refill it at the hotel breakfast service the next morning,” he said. Need more later in the day? “Places like Denny’s or IHOP will usually fill your thermos for the cost of a single cup of coffee, or McDonald’s will typically eyeball your thermos and charge for one or two large coffees.”
A favorite thermos of mine is from Stanley. They have several sizes, from 20oz to 2 quarts. The thermos has a cup as a lid and keeps your coffee hot for hours.
Get Gift Cards
The Costco or Sam’s Club websites often offer discounted restaurant gift cards to their members from major chains like Landry’s and Darden’s, Munsil said.
“Sometimes the gift cards will appear to be for a specific restaurant, but usually that card will work at any restaurant owned by that chain,” he said.
He also suggested planning your evening stops in decent-sized towns and checking a site like Restaurant.com for gift certificates to local restaurants. Larger towns are more likely to have participating restaurants.
We may receive commissions for purchases made through links in this post. In addition to a handful of affiliate networks, TrueTrae.com/TraeBodge.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.
This article appeared in its original form on Credit.com. It has since been updated.
Related post: How to save money when you shop