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Saving Time and Money on a Summer Road Trip

December 30th, 2012 Seasonal

While flying off to an exotic tropical destination is a popular trip idea, travel and hotel arrangements can cost a fortune, which can be a major roadblock in this difficult economy. If you're interested in a more affordable getaway, consider packing up your family in the car and hitting the pavement for a cross-country road trip. However, even this vacation plan can become a little pricey if you're not careful. Here are some tips for saving time and money on a summer road trip.

Maintain your vehicle While it might seem like an added expense, making sure that your vehicle is in good condition before embarking on a road trip can save you a lot of time, money and aggravation down the line - particularly if you have an older model car. Consider bringing your vehicle into the repair shop for a quick tune-up along with having your fluids checked. Additionally, you should make sure your tires are inflated to the recommended level for greater fuel-efficiency. Even if you end up spending a little more than you planned, it's preferable to discovering a mechanical error hundreds of miles into your vacation.

Vary your meals Along with gasoline, food will likely comprise one of your biggest expenses as you travel across the country. Not only will your wallet take a major hit every time you stop at a fast food joint or sit-down restaurant, but most of the dining options along America's highways aren't the most nutritious available. For a healthier choice that is kinder to your budget, consider packing a cooler of travel-friendly food so you can vary your meals. Snacks like pretzels, hummus, yogurt, low-fat cheese, crackers, cut vegetables, fruit and nuts will help fill your family's bellies without needing to pull over every time someone is hungry. You can also pack some picnic lunches with sandwich supplies for a fast food alternative.

Go camping! Even if the main purpose of your road trip isn't camping-related, there's no reason you can't enjoy a couple of nights under the stars as your trek across America. If you have a large enough tent available, you can alternate spending nights in hotels or motels with stopping at a national park or camping area along your route. Not only is this a more affordable option, but it will also add exciting new experiences to your vacation that you and the kids can cherish for the rest of your lives.

Pack light While you don't want to leave any essential items behind, packing light will help make your adventure all the more manageable. First off, the more weight you have in your car, the harder your engine will have to work - decreasing your vehicle's gas mileage. Excessive baggage will also make the conditions inside your vehicle more cramped and less comfortable, which can be a major issue if you're spending several days on the road.

Take turns driving If you consider yourself the primary driver in the family, you'll need to abandon that type of thinking for your road trip. While you might be able to go strong for the first day or so of traveling, eventually the constant stress of driving will necessitate that you take a break and let someone else grab the wheel - either your spouse or a child who has his or her license. In the front passenger seat, you can still remain engaged by acting as the navigator and mediating any backseat issues so that the driver is free to focus on the road.