Many of us don’t want to admit it, but the end of summer is just around the corner. With an extended weekend coming up, now is the perfect time to plan a Labor Day road trip and have one last great summer vacation.
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. Here are some travel tips to see the country without blowing your budget.
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 have the right air pressure, 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. Better to find out about a problem while you can still fix it before your Labor Day trip.
2. Find a Good Gas Credit Card
Savvy road-trip planners know 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 on summer travel.
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 the Gasbuddy app, which provides real-time gas prices at numerous gas stations nearby.
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4. Conserve Your Gas
After finding the best deals on gas, you’ll want to conserve that gas as much as possible when driving. Luckily, there are numerous ways to do that. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, running your car’s air conditioning in hot weather can reduce your miles per gallon by up to 25 percent.
Also, avoid speeding. The Department of Energy reported that aggressive driving (rapid acceleration and braking) could lower your car’s fuel economy by up to 30 percent on the highway and up to 40 percent in stop-and-go traffic. Finally, 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 some fees you should absolutely never pay if you can avoid them, and highway tolls are one of them. Some toll roads can cost you upwards of $13 for a one-way trip, according to The News Wheel, a digital automotive magazine. Your smartphone or GPS can help you plan a trip that doesn’t include any tolls.
6. Pack Your Own Food
When it comes to food, there are a few travel tips that 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 on a summer vacation, it doesn’t have to be. Take advantage of the warm temperatures and explore some low-cost camping spots.
Even if camping isn’t your thing, there are plenty of ways to find cheap lodging options. Check Airbnb, where you can rent a room, or take a look at discount websites like Hotels.com. Better yet, plan a trip that passes by a friend 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 like festivals or carnivals.
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9. Find Local Deals
Traveling on the cheap for Labor Day weekend doesn’t mean you have to skip out on nice restaurants and pricier entertainment. Look for coupons for local attractions at your vacation spot 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 spot. Just pay attention to any expiration dates, rules and limitations.
10. Secure All Belongings
It’s easy to get excited when you finally hit your destination, but make sure you properly secure 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.