What I Learned about Making Last-Minute Road Trips More Affordable

family-road-trip

If we are being honest with one another, I will tell you that road trips are not something I care for at all. I would rather not spend any more time than absolutely necessary in the car, and that means anything over an hour is too much for me. Perhaps it’s the fact that I have four kids that makes me dislike the car so much. Perhaps the incessant sounds of Elsa and Anna singing their songs from the DVD players mounted directly behind my head that makes me dislike the car. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m an aggressive driver working hard on my road rage that makes me dislike driving so much. It could even be the fact that I don’t even make a good passenger thanks to the fact that I have terrible motion sickness if I try to do anything but watch the road.

Hand me a book, I get sick. Look at my phone for more than just a moment, I get sick. I’m also always thirsty, but my bladder does not agree with that. I’m a terrible car-rider. So when my husband and I received the news that his father requires a double bypass this week, only two days before it’s scheduled, we had to make a decision; get in the car or find a flight. The decision was simple; there were no flights leaving with enough time for us to get home from a pool party, pack for six and make it to the airport in time to get here at a reasonable time. That meant it was time to pack up my SUV and make an 11-hour trip with our family to be here, away from home, for a full week.

What I’ve learned on this trip, so far, is that road trips are not cheap. People state that they take them because they are more cost-effective, and disagree. Road trips are expensive. And don’t even get me started on all the last minute travel; including making phone calls to schools and gathering work from teachers and working getting a full week of attendance marked as excused. Or how about packing for a family of six in under two hours? I feel as if I should get a super woman cape or a tiara or at least a big glass of wine for that.

Back on track though, road trips are not always cost-effective if you don’t do it right. Upon our arrival in North Carolina, I had a handbag filled with receipts. Going through them, I realized it’s probably entirely possible to make a road trip a lot less expensive; if you don’t do it like us. On that note, here’s a few ways to lower the cost of your next road trip so that you don’t break the bank making a drive that ended up being more expensive than a flight.

Plan Ahead

In our case, that was not possible. We didn’t have ‘ahead’ to plan. We had two hours – and we didn’t even feel we had that long. Planning ahead makes for a much more cost-effective trip when you’re on the road. It allows you to plan out your stops for gas and food, bathroom breaks and even for the night if you are not planning on traveling straight through. This allows you to see where gas is most affordable, where you can find the best room for the best price, and much more. We ended up getting gas in South Carolina somewhere for $.15 more than we pay at home, but if we’d only driven another 30 miles, we’d have gotten gas for $.10 less than we pay at home. Planning is road trip gold.

Borrow entertainment

Do you have kids that you have to take with you? For us, having DVD players in the back seats is a must. We have a 7, 5, and two 2-year-olds to entertain. We stopped very quickly upon leaving our home so that we could grab a few things we did not already have on hand, including a few new DVDs for them so that they’d be enthralled with new movies they’ve never before seen. That meant $60 on DVDs I’m pretty sure at least 4 people I know already have that I could have borrowed for the week. Instead of going out and buying movies my kids will watch this week and very likely never again, I could have borrowed them and saved a ton.

Snacks

I don’t love the eating in my car; I’m a neat freak and it kills me to allow food in my car. Unfortunately, my husband thinks it’s unreasonable for me to expect the kids to go 11 hours without food or beverage – he’s such a good daddy. I had a few snacks around the house that were good for the car, but not too many since our kids prefer to eat things like fresh fruit and items of that nature. Since we did not have space for a big cooler (though I did stop and grab the Yeti Hopper bag and it is amazing), we had to stop and do that, too. I took the big kids into the store with me and we spent entirely too much on food they certainly do not need in their lives. If you plan ahead, though, you can prepare amazing snacks and even meals that are far healthier than anything you can find on the road, and far less expensive.

Stops

The one thing that I love about travel is finding the best deal on the best hotel. Being that I can’t just stop at the next exit and sleep wherever we find a room, I just utilize Priceline. I can narrow down the results to the four and five-star hotels along the route and then see the prices. From there, I can check out the hotels in certain areas that meet our criteria, and I can narrow down which ones I think might be the ones I can bid on and name my own price. I was able to book a 4-star hotel in Savannah for us in the car after we left for only $120. It was far less than the $200 the hotel was charging outright. I highly recommend bidding on your own room to save a bundle.

Road trips are fun for some, and pure torture for others. However, that does not mean they have to be more expensive the necessary. How do you save on road trips? Our trip home this weekend will be far more cost-effective, I will tell you that.


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