Do you hit the road for the holidays? We usually take a road trip or two to visit family sometime during the Christmas season, and those trips can be serious budget-breakers if we don’t plan ahead. And really…. who wants to be thinking about the budget when you’re off to see people you love?
We do a few things that help us keep trip costs under control when we travel.
What do we have? What do we need? Simple questions that can save you time and money. I am famous for forgetting a couple of things that we need to take with us, and that usually means my husband ends up making a late-night run to Walmart the night before we leave. If I remember to take an inventory the week before we travel, I am less apt to forget things. And let’s face it… everyone’s just happier when there’s not a late-night run involved. 🙂
So start thinking now about things you may need for upcoming holiday travel. Do you need travel sippy cups or Pull-Ups for the littles? Or do you need to fill a prescription that will run out while you’re gone? If you jot these things on your shopping lists over the next month, then you can pick up what you need without having to make a special trip.
Shop the Stockpile
If you’re a couponer, you probably have a little stash of snacks tucked away somewhere. One of the biggest budget breakers on a road trip can be the lure of convenience foods when you stop for gas. Why not bring your own? We usually pack a snack bag that we can raid when we get the munchies on the road. They aren’t foods that we eat on a regular basis, so they’re a treat for everyone.
If you’re just driving a few hours, you might be able to pack the meal that you would normally buy when you’re on the road. Skipping the drive-thru is not only healthier, it’s also cheaper. Simple peanut butter & jelly or pita sandwiches are easy to bring along in a small lunchbox. Add some apples and carrot sticks, and you’re set!
We tend to caffeinate when we’re traveling, and that means stopping for a Mt. Dew from time to time. At a convenience store, we could pay close to $2 for a 20-ounce bottle. For just a little bit more, I can usually get a 6-pack of bottles that can be put into a cooler in the back of our van. We don’t usually do this for shorter trips, but we do for longer ones.
The first time we tried the bring-your-own-drinks route, I grabbed cans instead of bottles. I figured they were cheaper, and it’s what we already had at home. What I forgot was the fact that the cup holders in the vehicle we were driving at the time weren’t can-friendly. It’s just nicer (for flavor and spill avoidance) to have something you can cap… soda, water, or juice.
Baby Your Ride
Saving money on gas is a huge part of saving money on travel. We know where we can find the cheapest gas along our usual route. If you’re in unfamiliar territory and have a smartphone, you can download all sorts of apps to help you find the cheapest gas in the area.
But even simple things like getting that oil change you’ve been putting off (yes, I’m reminding myself here!) or checking your tire pressure can add miles to each gallon of gas you use. Checking the coolant and other fluids keep your ride running smoothly and your gas mileage in check.
If you’re traveling a long way with kids, keeping them entertained can be quite a task. If you watch the pre-Christmas sales, you can often find travel games meant for stocking stuffers on sale. Pair those sales with coupons, and you’ve got some really inexpensive entertainment.
There are also lots of sites that offer free printable travel games. Making a folder full of these before you leave home might help you avoid the “Are we there yet” questions. FamilyFun and Crayola Puzzles and Games both have fun printables available.
Plan for Longer
If you’re traveling to (or through) an area that tends to get hit with lots of wintry weather, it can also be helpful to over-pack. If you take along an extra day’s worth of clothes, prescriptions, diapers, and toiletries, you’re less likely to have to make an emergency purchase if you’re stranded away from home for an extra night.