How to Save Money While Planning a Road Trip

Travel Planning and Savings Tips

When your income isn't that great, travel options for getting from point A to Point B are pretty limited. For many of us, traveling by air is much too expensive. And if you live in small city like I do, even Amtrak might not be a travel option. Families on a budget know that the cheapest method of traveling is usually by car, especially when it comes to traveling with a passel of kids and the family dog.

Whether you are planning a road trip or driving out-of-state for the holidays, there are all sorts of money saving tips a thrifty family can use to trim travel costs. The biggest tip for saving money on your travel plans is to plan ahead and plan early. Here are a few more ideas that can help:

Have the car serviced in advance of traveling. Before going on the road, having your car serviced is a smart strategy that can save money in the long run. Things like changing the oil and filters, testing the air pressure, and doing a general service check means that your car will be operating at peak efficiency. Why does this matter? A recently serviced car will get better mileage which saves on gasoline costs. It may also help prevent unexpected breakdowns that can cost you time and money.

Join an auto club. Because our family owns old cars that are not very reliable, an auto club membership is one travel expense we never stint on. Aside from saving money with free emergency roadside service, free towing, free maps and other travel guides, an auto club membership can mean sizable savings on dining, hotel lodging, and attractions. Discounts range from 10% to 50% which more than pay for the cost of a membership.

Prepare a menu for the road. Eating fast food can while traveling can also knock a budget off kilter. One way to save money while on the road is to pack your own meals instead of buying them. What our family does is bring along a 5-day cooler filled with the materials needed to fix meals on the road. For hot meals, a single burner camp stove can do the trick.

Book hotel accommodations before you leave. One thing I have discovered about traveling on the road is that the room rates are cheapest when booked on-line well in advance of your travel plans. Between on-line reservations and using my auto club discounts, we can save 30% and higher off of the room rates.

One other tip: Book accommodations at hotels where kids stay free and a free complementary breakfast is included for the best savings of all.

Stay with relatives. As you plan your travel route, another money saving strategy is to include a stopover at your relatives' homes. Staying with family while traveling is a fantastic way of saving money. Not only are the accommodations free, your relatives can also clue you in as to the cheapest way to visit their city. The best approach to this money saving strategy is to call your relatives a month or two before traveling, which gives them adequate time to prepare. An offer to reciprocate the next time they visit your home town will usually clinch the deal.

Buy an Entertainment book for your destination city. Entertainment books have been around for years and are a great way of saving money while traveling. These books are filled with 2-for-1 meal deals plus hundreds of 50% off coupons for shopping, attractions, and more. What we do for extended trips is purchase an Entertainment book specific for our destination city to take advantage of the many entertainment discounts available. Books can be ordered directly from at the low price of $20.