Driving

Stretch dollars on your next road trip


Road-trippers can employ several strategies to save money on the road.

In an era of escalated airline ticket prices and extra travel expenses, road trips have emerged once more as a popular and cost-conscious mode of vacationing for individuals and families.

Nearly 80 percent of leisure trips in 2012 were made by car, says the U.S. Travel Association. Fodor's Travels advises taking road trips across Canada in the summer, when temperatures average 74o F (23o C) and snow and slush are a distant memory. Various trips exist that can take you through urban or rural areas.

Those making road trips may be concerned about keeping costs down, particularly if saving money is the catalyst behind the road trip vacation. The following are a few tips to stretch dollars that much further on your next road trip.

* Dine out sparingly. Road stops and drive-thru food expenditures can quickly add up during the course of a road trip. Therefore, pack the majority of the food you will eat in a cooler. Not only will this save money, it will mean food is at the ready when hunger strikes. Food need not be all cold snacks, like sandwiches. Frozen burgers or refrigerated frankfurters can be cooked on a camp stove or tossed on a grill at a park's picnic area. Save restaurant dining as a special treat during the vacation.

* Look for inexpensive lodging. While on a road trip you may need to compromise some of the comforts of home to save some money. Motel rates are another trip budget-buster. But by mixing overnights at motels with less expensive options you may be able to mitigate costs. Camp out at a safe campsite and purchase a shower ticket so you can enjoy a cheap, hot shower the next day. Spend a few nights under the stars; just be sure you have the right gear. Some also like to plan road trip routes between where relatives live and make pit stops at a friend or family member's home. When seeking motels, try to bargain and see if you're eligible for any rebates or coupons due to age or military status.

* Map out cheaper gas stations. Today's smartphones have apps that enable you to find nearby gas stations. Such apps may even shed light on which filling stations offer the best prices on gasoline.

* Dont speed. In addition to being illegal, speeding wastes gas. Stick to the speed limit to avoid potentially costly tickets and improve fuel efficiency.

* Bring friends along. Friends will not only make the trip more fun, but they also can take turns driving and sharing the costs of the excursion.

* Join a roadside assistance club. Vehicle problems are inevitable if you are a frequent road-tripper who's driving an older car. Avoid potentially costly towing costs by joining a roadside assistance club that will pay for your vehicle to be towed if necessary.

* Have the proper paperwork. Keep a current copy of your car registration, license and proof of insurance with you on a road trip. This makes it much easier to deal with traffic stops along the way. Individuals and their passengers planning on visiting another country should have their passports available and follow the laws regarding bringing food or goods over the border to avoid fines.

Road trips can be enjoyable excursions that cost far less than other vacations. Road-trippers can stretch funds even further with some handy tips.