Road Trip Time: 4 Ways to Reduce Travel Costs
If you’re planning a road trip this summer you’re probably already cringing at the price of gas. But even with high gas prices, a road trip can still be cheaper—and often more fun—than a vacation that involves flying. However, unexpected expenses and poor planning can quickly inflate a road trip cost. Here are some pitfalls to avoid.
4 Ways to Reduce Travel Costs
1. Extra Gas Spending
Whether traveling close to home or cross-country, gas can really take a bite out of your vacation budget. The AAA Fuel Cost Calculator uses the latest average fuel prices from different regions to help you calculate basic gas expenses. Start there to see how much you can expect to spend.
Then, follow some of these tips to reduce gas spending on your trip:
- Don’t upgrade fuel if you don’t have to. If you can, fill up on regular gas, which is usually 20 cents cheaper per gallon.
- Use gas finding apps. The easiest-to-find gas stations often take advantage of their location with higher gasoline prices. Use an app like GasBuddy to find the cheapest gas when you need to fill up.
- Drive the speed limit. According to FuelEconomy.gov, gas efficiency usually decreases after you hit 50 miles per hour or above.
- Use a gas credit card. Gas credit cards may not only save you money at the pump, they may also give you cash back. Run a comparison of today’s best gas cards before you choose yours.
- Give your car a tune-up. Taking care of basic maintenance and checking the air pressure on your tires before a road trip will ensure you get the best gas mileage.
- Rent a fuel-efficient car. Compact, fuel-efficient cars are cheaper to rent, and what you save on gas may even offset the extra cost of a hybrid.
2. Added Hotel Fees
Many hotels write extra fees into your price, such as charging extra to use the pool or gym, or to access other services. You can avoid these fees by asking about them directly, and requesting their removal from your bill if you don’t plan to use the extra amenities.
Also, many hotels now require customers to pay for WiFi access, even in the hotel common areas. You can sometime avoid these fees by joining a hotel loyalty program, as long as you plan to stay with the same hotel chain for your entire trip. Or you can just skip the hotel WiFi altogether and head to the nearest Starbucks or McDonald’s to take advantage of free WiFi.
3. Unexpected Rental Car Fees
Fees for a second driver, satellite radio access, emergency roadside assistance, or using EZ Pass to pay tolls can all add up to high car rental fees. If you’re planning to rent a car for your road trip, be sure to call the rental company beforehand to find out exactly what will be added to your bill.
Most car rental agencies will try to push you to pay for rental insurance, which you may not need; your own car insurance may cover the basics. If not, book the rental on a credit card—many credit cards offer rental car insurance when you use their card. Check your coverage so that you don’t spend extra money. For auto insurance in Michigan, see here.
4. Expensive Road Food
Roadside food, while a big part of a road trip, may be one of the biggest money wasters. Instead of paying a fortune for food from gas stations or restaurants off the highway, pack your own food. Stock a cooler with sandwiches, bottled water, sodas, and snacks to avoid roadside prices.
Budgeting for a road trip is more important than ever now that gas is approaching $4.00 a gallon in some areas of the country. With careful planning, you can avoid many high and unexpected costs, and keep your road trip financially reasonable.
What tips can you share to help shave money on road trips?
Photo courtesy of FlickrDaniela Baker is a social media advocate at CreditDonkey where travel enthusiasts like herself can compare the best travel rewards cards. She hopes this post will help you keep your travel expenses in check.