Tips and Ideas to Get Ready for Your Road Trip

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by Elle Martinez · 14 comments

Update: This post was included in the Best of Money Carnival over at Sustainable Personal Finance!

Summer is quickly approaching and for some couples and families it’s vacation season. Flying to your destination may not be feasible, but that doesn’t mean that a long and hectic road trip is on your agenda. Driving may be a great way to enjoy your vacation – as long as you’re prepared.

Deciding on the Destination

First up is deciding on where to go for your next road trip. If you’re not quite sure of where you want to go or you’re looking for things to do, here are some wonderful sites:

I love trying out different cities and seeing what they have to offer. This fall we’re planning on going to Chicago, so I’m using some of these sites to get some places to check out.

Preparing Your Car for Your Road Trip

The last thing you want to worry about is your car breaking down and costing you an arm and a leg to repair. We prefer renting a car for our longer trips, but if that’s not your plan then make sure you’re ready.

  • Make sure your fluids are taken care of. Double check your motor fluid levels, windshield wiper fluid, transmission, and your engine coolant.
  • Check to see if your tires are properly inflated. Under-inflated tires can increase tire wear, increase your chances of being in an accident, and increase your gasoline costs.
  • Prepare for emergencies. If you haven’t already, make sure your emergency kit is ready and it’s packed in your trunk. To make it easier to prepare for road problems, there are some pre-made emergency car kits to get you started.

Planning for Stops

If you plan it correctly, driving to your destination can be a wonderful adventure in itself.

  • If you need it, get your maps ready. Having a GPS is handy, but I still like having a physical map in my hand. We’re driven through locations where we lost signal and it’s frustrating. If you have a kids it’s a great way for them to get familiar with an area and to learn to read maps.
  • Find the right spots to grab a bite. Don’t just stop at a fast food chain. Discover new spots by using sites like RoadFood. It’ll break up the long drive and you may discover a new favorite meal.

Keeping Your Gas Costs Down

There are ways you can keep your gasoline expenses lower this summer.

  • Be consistent with your driving speed. Don’t have a lead foot when driving. Stop and go driving decreases your fuel efficiency. Try to maintain your speed when you’re driving on the highway. Try to use cruise control when it you can to help you be steady with speed.
  • Keep your car light. Less weight means better mileage, so remove any junk in your trunk. Having a heavy load can take its toll as you drive around town.
  • Take advantage of your smartphone. Check apps like GasBuddy and AAA TripTik Mobile can help you find the best gas prices locally. I remember one gas station was ridiculously higher than another station less than a mile away. since it was closer to the exit, most people stopped at the pricier station which was a rip-off.

These tips have saved us some money at the gas pump. I hope they can help you too.

Thoughts on Road Trips

I’m hoping we can a weekend trip or two in before the baby arrives. I love the beach and the weather has been gorgeous lately. How many of you go on road trips for your getaways? What are some tips that you have for those traveling? If you’re  parent, do you have tips on keeping everyone sane?

Photo Credit: kevindooley

About Elle Martinez
Elle Martinez helps families at Couple Money achieve financial freedom by sharing tips for reducing debt, increase income, and building net worth. Learn how to live on one income and have fun with the second..

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  • http://www.nodebtmba.com No Debt MBA

    I would add to make sure that your tires are properly inflated. When driving thousands of miles this can make a big difference in your gas mileage.

  • GardenGirl

    My younger daughter was a terrible traveler when she was little. We made yearly long trips to visit family and it was torture for everyone. I learned to plan a BUNCH of activities to keep her amused in the car.
    *When you are little, a penny seems like a lot of money. So I had a bag of pennies in the glove box and when she started getting bored and cranky, I would pick an object for her to spot and she would get paid 1 penny for every one that she found. The object would depend on where we were driving. It could be a red car, a tractor, a truck carrying something else, a billboard with a specific item on it, etc. With more than 1 kid, you can have them each look for something different. Another variation is to have some things be worth more than others. 2 cents for yellow cars, 4 for purple trucks. This is also helpful with beginning counting and math.
    *A favorite activity for both my kids was the travel presents. If we were going on a 10 hour trip, I would find or buy 10 items that could be used in the car and wrap them up like presents. Every hour she would get one of them to open. (This was also a lesson in telling time). The items were small and inexpensive but highly anticipated because they were wrapped. They might be a special snack, some crayons and coloring book, magnetic travel game, pipe cleaners, stickers, or a roll of masking tape (this can amuse a kid trapped in the backseat for hours).
    Hope this helps!

    • Elle

      @GG: Thanks for the wonderful tips! We’re expecting our first baby this summer, so I’m especially excited to have some plans for her on road trips as she gets older.

  • http://www.sustainablelifeblog.com Jeff @ Sustainable life blog

    I think that cruise control is the best tip. It can help cut down quite a bit on gas costs. Also try traveling somewhere out-of-season, it makes things much cheaper.

    • Elle

      Jeff, my husband is the king of cruise control. He’s very conscious with his driving and its paid off for him. He has extra money for video games :)

  • http://savingsscoop.com/ Andrea

    Great things to know about especially, getting you car road ready for that trip.

  • http://www.untemplater.com Untemplater

    Great tips. I checked my tires before going on a 3 hour road trip last month and sure enough they were low and needed some air. I never did get used to cruise control b/c there’s so much stop and go traffic and I always end up turning it off after a few minutes. I do need to refill the wiper fluid – thanks for the reminder!

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  • http://www.mangomoney.com/blog Melissa

    I’m most excited about your reminder to finding the right spots to grab food! I’m total foodie, so when I’m taking my road trip from Texas to Wisconsin this summer, I’ll do a little lunch research for the road. RoadFood is a great resource and you can hear them often on NPRs “The Splendid Table.” Roadside produce stands are also a great way to get in some authentic local snacks. 

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