Don’t Hit The Road This Holiday Without These 8 Ways To Save

Don’t Hit The Road This Holiday Without These 8 Ways To Save

Driving instead of flying can be a more economical solution for traveling with the family. Here's how to save even more money during your road trip.

Originally Published Dec. 18, 2015

Many families will drive long distances to spend time with family and friends across the country to celebrate the season. Road trips are part of the holiday tradition for many who have extended families living at least three hours away.

Here are eight tactics to help minimize the cost of road trips before and during long drives. Using these strategies, you’ll arrive at your destination with plenty of money still in your wallet, where it belongs.

Rent early to save

The golden rule is to never wait until the last minute to rent your car. The earlier you book, the better deal you’ll get. Follow car rental companies on Facebook and X, formerly known as Twitter, to find their latest discounts, or enroll in free member rewards programs, like Hertz Gold Plus, National Emerald Club, or Enterprise Plus. If you’re not afraid of extra travel steps, you may consider taking a train to get you close to your destination and then calling Uber or driving a Zipcar to Grandma’s house. Before you say no, consider ways to put the extra money you’ll save by paying hourly instead of 24-hour rental fees to good use.

Fill your tires with air before you leave

Before you set out, check your owner’s manual for the maximum recommended pressure for your tires. At the gas station, fill your tires to their optimized air pressure. It’s a good idea to have a small pressure gauge, which most gas stations and convenience stores sell. The small pressure gauge saves you money in two ways. First, automobiles with tires filled to the recommended level get better gas mileage than cars with lower pressure. Second, low pressure in your tires increases the chance of a blowout, so if you fill them up to the recommended pressure, you’ll reduce your chance of an unwanted – and potentially expensive roadside stop.

Fill your gas tank before you leave

Check gas prices through sites such as GasBuddy, which lets you search for gas prices by city, state, and zip code, with updated listings in real-time for all cities in the U.S. and Canada. Most let you download apps such as Gas Guru to your tablet or smartphone, so you’ll have the locations you need at your fingertips while you travel. Remember: Some gas stations charge less if you pay cash, so consider this strategy in your travel budget.

Pre-filling the gas tank is also an indirect strategy for saving money because you’ll avoid the temptation of purchasing that extra coffee, soda, or sugary snack when you stop to fill up for gas. With gas station prices as expensive as they can be, splurging on unnecessary snacks is essentially money flying out of your pocket.

Refill your gas on the cheaper side of state borders

If you’re crossing any state borders, you’ll likely find very different gas prices in each state. GasBuddy tracks real-time prices at some 135,000 stations across America. It may be well worth your time to stop just before crossing a state border – or holding out until after a border crossing – to get cheaper fuel. You can check out varying prices at GasBuddy’s national gas price map. Some borders have a surprisingly large difference in fuel prices.

Pack snacks and meals

Avoid unnecessary convenience store expenses simply by packing your snacks, beverages, and even full meals that can be eaten at room temperature. Start by choosing perishable items from your pantry. Prepare sandwiches before you go, fill up a few water bottles, and you’ll have far less need to make an expensive stop. For inspiration and tips, check food blogs such as those on Food Network for healthy snack foods to pack when traveling.

Drive the speed limit

The primary reason for doing this is to avoid getting pulled over, which could result in a very expensive traffic ticket, aggravation, and time lost. But there’s another, more common-sense reason. Cars tend to be more fuel efficient when driven at around 55 mph. The faster you drive, the less fuel efficient they become, which means you’re churning out more money on fuel just to cover the same distance. Sure, you may save an extra five minutes on the parkway by speeding, but over a long trip, that’s sure to cost you an extra stop at a gas station.

Keep updated registration and proof of insurance in the car

If you get pulled over, that stop will be far less painful and time-consuming if you have proof of insurance and registration in the car, conveniently available. If you don’t have these documents, you can expect a much more expensive traffic ticket and the slow ticking away of much of your day. It’s worth spending the extra few seconds – and the 10 minutes required to print new ones if you can’t find them – to double-check and make sure you have these documents in your car to avoid the possibility of hundreds of dollars in tickets.

Avoid toll roads

Toll roads can be a large additional expense on your journey, easily adding $10 or more to the trip. They should be avoided even if this adds more miles to your trip. Thankfully, GPS often provides alternate routes that avoid toll roads. Adding another few minutes to your journey to avoid several tolls can save you a noticeable amount of money.

Smart planning before and while you’re on the road can save you significant cash during a holiday road trip.

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