Thursday, June 10, 2010

Saving Money on Car Trips - And Share Your Tips!

As I mentioned, we just got back from a quick trip to my cousin's wedding in South Carolina.  It was a seven hour drive to my parents' house, where we were staying.  That doesn't count the stops!

The cost of car trips can really add up, when you count gas, meals, snacks, and hotels (if you're traveling more than a day).  I know that personally, I'd rather spend money at my destination, so I try to think of ways to save.

One of the best ways to save money is to bring your own meals and snacks.  Believe it or not, this is doable, even for meals.  I come from a (very) large family, and for all of us to eat even at a fast food restaurant cost a good chunk of money!  So for years we packed our lunch in a cooler for car trips.  At first we used to stop at a rest stop and have a picnic; in later years when everyone was older we just ate in the car.  I also still remember my mom packing a frozen pot of sloppy joe to take on our annual trip to the beach.  In a cooler, the pot stayed cold until we arrived, and we had the first night's dinner all ready.

At this point, with very young kids, my family still indulges in a restaurant stop for lunch.  However, I do try to buy or make snacks ahead of time, instead of buying them at gas stations, where they're probably much more expensive.  We also all bring our refillable water bottles.

I know plenty of people have even more experience with frugal car trips, especially if you often travel long distances.  Car trip season is full in the works, so please share your tips with all of us.  Any tips for saving on gas?  On hotels?  More food tips?  Please share!

Photo by jard_jard.


  1. We drive from NJ to Florida at least once or twice per year and have the car trip thing down to a science. We pack *all* meals and snacks--aside from the cost, you waste about an hour stopping, plus eating in the car gives the kiddos (6 and 4) something to do. We also save hubby's Marriott points from his business travel and use for any overnight stops.

    And I have to give my kids props--they are troopers on car trips! Each of them is allowed to pack a backpack up with anything they'd like to have, plus I pack a bag with crayons, coloring books and simple craft supplies.

  2. We've had good luck using Priceline for hotels. We usually do 3+ stars to make sure that it will be a decent place so it still often costs $40 or so but for that price we've often been able to stay in the Washington, DC area at Hilton, Hyatt, Westin, and Sheraton and in Orlando at Hyatt Place and Sheraton. I also use to book through Priceline so I get some cash back! That was a nice treat to come home to after two weeks in Orlando.

  3. Do research about your location ahead of time. You'll find cheaper places to eat with higher ratings, coupons, free or cheap activities (which often don't spend the big bucks to advertise all over like the other places), etc. Also, learn to just have fun outdoors--a frisbee at the beach, a hike in the mountains, etc. all is cheaper and often times as memorable as the big expensive stuff.


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