Summer is coming to an end and while that might not be a surprise to anyone, there are still plenty of money saving surprises coming up with Labor Day weekend just around the corner.
Although air travel is expected to be very popular this year during Labor Day weekend — more than 14 million people are expected to fly during the seven-day Labor Day travel period, according to Airlines for America — you might decide to travel by car instead. While it’s true that road trips can be much cheaper than flying, expenses can still add up if you aren’t careful with your money.
To ensure your road trip stays budget-friendly, follow these 10 road trip tips.
1. Get your car checked out first.
First things first — you can’t have a road trip without a car. Get your car checked by a technician before embarking on any road trip. The tires should be checked to make sure they have the right air pressures. And if you’re almost due for an oil change, get it done before you leave for your trip. Check that all the lights are working properly, and take an extra minute to clean dirt off the headlights to make it easier to drive at night. You would much rather find out about a problem while you can still fix it before your Labor Day trip.
2. Find a good gas credit card.
Another great step to take before you hit the road is to get a credit card that specifically rewards you when you fill up on gas. Since gas is one of the main expenses for any road trip, having a card that gives you cash back or other rewards can be an easy way to save money.
3. Fill up on cheap gas.
You can still find ways to save money on gas once you’ve hit the road. A smartphone can be a lifesaver during a road trip for many reasons, including finding the cheapest gas prices nearby. Pull up a website or app that compares the price of gas at nearby stations. For example, check out Gasbuddy.com — it provides real-time gas prices at numerous gas stations nearby.
4. Conserve your gas.
After finding the best deals on gas, you’ll also want to conserve that gas as much as possible when driving. Luckily, there are numerous ways to do that. According to the California Consumer Energy Center, use the car’s air conditioning only when necessary; using the AC can increase fuel cost from 13 percent up to 21 percent.
Also, avoid speeding. Driving 55 mph can save you 25 percent on fuel cost. And while it can be tempting to bring along anything and everything on your road trip, a heavier car means more gas being burned each mile, so pack lightly.
5. Avoid toll booths.
There are few things more annoying to pay than highway tolls, especially when some can cost you up to $15 or more for a one-way trip in some places, according to CostToDrive.com. Your smartphone, GPS or even Google Maps can help you find ways to navigate around the tolls.
6. Pack your own food.
Planning ahead when it comes to food can help you save a lot in the long run. Instead of stopping every few hours to eat at a restaurant, why not pack easy-to-eat items like muffins or cereal bars for breakfast? For lunch, fill a cooler with cold cuts and bring along nuts and granola bars. Not only will you be saving money by not eating out for breakfast and lunch, but you’ll also save time by not having to stop as frequently and wait for your food to be prepared.
7. Book cheap lodging.
Lodging can often be the most expensive part of any road trip. But in the summer, it doesn’t have to be. Take advantage of the warm temperatures, and explore some of the most amazing camping spots.
Even if camping isn’t your thing, there are plenty of ways to find cheap lodging options. Check Airbnb.com where you can rent lodging, or take a look at websites like Hotels.com. Better yet — plan out a route that hits a friend’s or relative’s house and bunk with them.
8. Take advantage of free or cheap entertainment.
While a Labor Day road trip is a great time to make memories, the real fun starts when you get to your destination. Make sure not to blow your budget as soon as you get there, though. When it comes to entertainment, spend your time enjoying the warm weather at public beaches and parks, as well as cheap local attractions such as festivals or carnivals.
9. Find local deals.
Being cheap while traveling doesn’t always mean you have to skip out on nice restaurants and pricier entertainment. There are many ways to find coupons for local attractions that are great for the summertime, such as boat rides, Segway tours and fancy restaurants. Browse sites like Groupon and Living Social a few days or weeks before you leave to see what deals are available in your planned vacation destination. Just pay attention to any expiration dates, rules and limitations.
10. Secure all belongings.
It’s easy to get excited and antsy when you finally hit your destination, but make sure you don’t head into your hotel for the night without properly securing your belongings in your car or hotel room. Do your best to cover up any belongings, and always lock your doors. Nothing ruins a Labor Day road trip like getting your personal items stolen.
Now, we want to hear from you! Would like to share your opinion or make a comment on the Unlock Your Wealth Radio Show? If so, then please leave your comment or questions in the space provided below and share this article with your friends and family on Facebook and Twitter. Your comments or question could be chosen as our featured Money Question Monday and a phone call by financial expert Heather Wagenhals could dial your way to be live on the Unlock Your Wealth Radio Show.
Photo Credit: GoBankingRates