MONEY MATTERS: How to Save Money on Your Summer Road Trip

With the end of summer in sight, it is the perfect time for a road trip. We’ve got a collection of road trip tips from all over the internet. To start, app maker Fuelzee has a few car focused tips in 11 Ways to Save Money on Your Road Trip, including:

Group on road trip having fun in the car saving money on gas prices

1. Check Your Tire Pressure

Before you go, check your tire pressure to make sure it is at the manufacturer’s recommended PSI. This little tip will save you on MPG over distances.

2. Remove Excess Weight

Baggage is essential. But sometimes pulling the extra seats out of a minivan or getting rid of non-essentials saves you money on the road. Clear out anything not truly needed from your car.

3. Visit a Mechanic (not just an oil change)

Get an oil change and a tune-up. Ask a mechanic to take an overview of your vehicle before you head out. This can avoid costly repairs at shops along the way. Make sure your mechanic tops off your antifreeze, brake fluid and power steering fluid. He can also check your hoses, belts, and brakes for sign of wear. If you’re headed somewhere warm, ask him to take a look at the a.c. system. Since you’ll be staring out those windows for a long time, make sure your windshield wipers are good. Taking time to do this before you leave can save you immeasurable headache later.

4. Be Ready for a Breakdown

Do you have a spare tire? Make sure one is in your trunk for the unfortunate flat that may come along the way.  Also, don’t forget to ensure that your spare tire is actually inflated. Do you have a jack in your trunk? Consider grabbing a rain poncho in case you’re stuck changing a tire in inclement weather.

Roadside assistance programs aren’t expensive, but they can prove invaluable. AAA offers such assistance as jump starts, free tows, and lost key assistance. Your car insurance company may be able to add this service to your auto insurance for just a few extra dollars a month. Look into this before you head out on your road trip.

About Travel offers, Top 5 Money Saving Road Trip Tips including:

1. Eschew the drive through:

Running through Mickey D’s racks up the road trip food bucks and it gets boring to boot. Stop in at Mom’s Apple Pie Cafe sorts of spots for mega meals on the cheap instead. Look for early bird specials — you and the old folks can find big dinners for a few bucks. Get off the main road for real cheap eats. Totally score on cheap street food at local celebrations like art-in-the-park type stuff — look for balloons as you drive through towns.

2. Save on snacks:

Snacks are big budget killers on road trips — racks of Cheetos and Fritos at 99 cents are irresistible in convenience stores. Pick up picture of family in car, taking a road tripcheaper chips at grocery stores (like Safeway) in economy-sized bags instead and get roughly twice as much for your money. Bring a cooler (styrafoam varieties are cheaper at WalMart than convenience stores) and load it up with sodas from the Publix rather than 7-11.

3. Stay for free:

Camping for free is as easy as pulling off in a National Forest and stretching out under the stars. If you prefer a roof, crash free on a couch with a like-minded free spirit host in safety with Couchsurfing’s database.

Another favorite site, HowStuffWorks offers these tips (check out the related links at the bottom of the page):

young friends enjoying picnic on beach

Free Stops on a Road Trip

America is jam-packed with free and low-cost things to see and do; you just have to know where to look. A few free road-trip destinations include:

  • The Beach: Pack a cooler of sandwiches, toss some towels in the backseat, and drive to the coast for a day of sand and surf. Though you may have to pay a fee to park, most of America’s beaches are free and open to the public.
  • Free Music: Almost anywhere you go, someone is putting on a free show. Find free music coast to coast, from Naumburg Orchestral Concerts in New York City’s Central Park to Alameda South Shore Center’s Summer Beats concert series in Alameda, Calif.
  • Neighborhood Festivals: Really dive into the character of a place by attending the annual festivals small towns and big city neighborhoods put on each year. Admission is often free and buys an afternoon of complimentary music, arts and crafts shopping, kid’s activities, parades, sporting events and unlimited local character. Large cities like Atlanta play host to a number of free neighborhood festivals including the Inman Park Festival, the Decatur Arts Festival, the Dogwood Festival and many more. Smaller towns spend all year gearing up for a big blowout, like the Northwest Raspberry Festival in Lyndon, Wash. is a great resource for finding these events.
  • Museums: Many museums offer free admission on select days. For instance, you can see works of art (from Picasso sculptures to Wedgewood China) for free at NYC’s Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Free Fridays.
 Meanwhile for those of you traveling with kids, Momsminivan has ways to stretch your dollars on the road including:

Plan Free Entertainment for the Kids for the Road

While there are lots of activities, books and games available to purchase to keep the kiddies entertained (and parents sane), there is just as much available for free if you know where to look.

Start with Printable Car Travel Games from like Road Trip Bingo, Lines and Dots, coloring pages, and lyrics to songs the family can sing to pass the time. Spend a few minutes printing these activities and save money as well as your sanity.

Also, play some games in the car that don’t require any materials at all like traditional car games such as Counting Cows, The License Plate Game, I Spy, and Twenty Questions. Other activities require minimal expense such as “Aluminum Foil Art” (you just need a roll of aluminum foil), card games (you just need a deck of cards to play Crazy 8’s or Old Maid),  and string game figures (you just need a piece of string). There are instructions on how to play these activities and many more like them in my articles on Car Games for Kids or for Toddlers

My good friend and frequent road tripper, Devra, also recommends planning ahead for free media entertainment as well. She writes, “We go to the library and check out DVDs and music instead of buying them.”