It’s summer and that means road trips. There’s nothing like packing your bags for a weekend or weeklong excursion on the open road. For me, a road trip needs to be eight hours or less, but that’s beside the point.
Road tripping is fun, but if you’re not careful, you’ll spend more money than you intended.
According to a survey done by RetailMeNot, 95 percent of those surveyed said they think people spend more than planned during road trips. Food and gas topped the list of costs followed by hotels and entertainment.
And if you’re a parent it’s not any better. The survey noted that 47 percent of parents are more likely than those without kids to spend more on vacations. But why are we spending so much money on road trips?
Well, for one, road trips let you move at your own pace and explore places of the world you don’t see on a regular. Trust me, it’s easy to get caught up in collecting souvenirs from one cute shop to the next.
In addition to shopping, eating is a big one. When I travel I want to fill myself on all the local cuisine I can. After all, it’s not everyday you’re in XYZ city, town, state. However, I’ve been on a few road trips or three recently and can offer a few tips on how NOT to be vacation poor.
1. Take your own food: A friend of mine who shall remain nameless laughed at me for bringing my cooler full of drinks and other goodies on a recent road trip. She wasn’t laughing so hard when she needed some water and a pit stop wasn’t in site. Take that, LOL! Honestly, I thought that bringing your own snacks/food on a road trip was common. When I would go on car trips with my grandmother she’d always pack food, and I’m not talking about chips and juice either. We would have pork chop sandwiches, chicken, deviled eggs, pretty much a picnic in the car. Call it crazy, but it worked because the only time we stopped was for gas and to use the bathroom. Plus, bringing food means you don’t have to worry about starving or trying to find a late night snack. Been there, done that.
2. Budget for shopping: I know budget is a taboo word for but it’s a lifesaver, literally. The purpose is to be able to take other vacations and not live on the memory of that one vacation you took way back when. Allot a certain amount of money for trinkets and extras. Also, before you get souvenir happy, ask yourself do you really need another post card, magnet or T-shirt? I’m sure you don’t.
3. Spend where you’re going: Unless the trip was on a whimsy, know when and where you will spend your money. For example, when I took a recent road trip to Atlanta I knew I wanted to spend money at a conference so that meant I didn’t want to blow it on the outlets and other shiny things on the drive up. If you’ve been dying to see a museum, band or whatever, make sure you have money to spend on the actual reason you’re road tripping.
4. Use your phone: Smartphones are the best when it comes to traveling. With apps like Urbanspoon and Yelp, you can pretty much find anything within a certain radius of you. Want to find a good local restaurant? Use Urbanspoon. Looking for thrift shopping? Yelp it. Want to find a bargain? Use RetailMeNot or my favorite, Shopular. Trying to find cheap gas on your route? Try GasBuddy. This is the time to put all those apps you’ve downloaded to work.
Hopefully these tips will help you road trip without breaking the bank. How do you stay frugal on road trips?