The quintessential great American road trip has been a bucket list item of mine for as long as I can remember. From dreaming of driving along the Atlantic coastal highway in my jeep as a college student, to now—in my SUV filled with my family. Heading out on the highway for an adventure to see all that the U.S. has to offer fills me with excitement.
A family road trip seems to me to be a great option for my family and me to have a much-needed vacation and while making some amazing memories.
We live on the east coast. One of the many beautiful beach destinations would typically be my choice, but this year calls for something different. We decided to head to upstate New York to explore the Adirondacks, Saratoga Springs, and the beautiful towns of Lake George and Glenn Falls.
With the destination picked, it’s time to start planning. Vacations, even road trips can be expensive, so the best way to stay within your budget is to plan ahead. Here are my top five ways to save when traveling with your family—road trip style:
1. PRE-PLAN YOUR ACCOMMODATIONS
Part of the fun of a road trip is traveling and landing where the road takes you. I’m all for that but with kids it’s best to know where you are going to lay your head each night. I found that if I booked ahead as a AAA Member, I could save up to 20% on room nights. I also want to be sure that where we stay is safe and clean. Best Western has a We Care Clean program where they have implemented a thorough cleaning process and seal the room so that you know that when you check in that you are the only one entering the room since it was cleaned. I like that, and it makes me feel comfortable. On top of the cleaning, I save 10% off of the best available rate, and my rate comes with free grab and go breakfast for the whole family (double savings because I save the cost of a meal for my family each night of our stay).
2. SNACKTACKULAR SAVINGS
That’s right, I pack a bunch of snacks and drinks in the car for the trip. From fresh hand fruit, like apples and bananas to mini snack bags of chips or fruit snacks, I have a bag chock full of goodies for the road as well as snack time while we are out exploring.
3. PURCHASE YOUR TICKETS IN ADVANCE
There are a ton of must-see attractions on our trip. From the museums to the lake cruises, to theme parks. I buy my tickets in advance as much as I can. By purchasing your tickets in advance, you can save as much as 30% on attraction tickets especially if you shop through the AAA tickets program.
4. DINE OUT…ON A DIME
Local restaurants are as big of a part of a destination, as are the area attractions. Restaurants typically have happy hour specials, where you can try out many of their top-selling appetizers for half-price. Have an early dinner of apps, and with those savings, you can test out a local ice cream shop or dessert destination. Not a happy hour fan? No worries—many local restaurants offer discounts in local guide books or ask if they offer a AAA Member discount—you will be surprised how often the answer is yes.
5. FUEL UP WITH REWARDS
One of the best-kept secrets is fuel finder apps. You can use a fuel finder app to find the lowest rates on fuel near you. Savings can range from $.05 - $.20 per gallon. Designate the co-pilot (or the kids) as the fuel savings finder. A hint, many fuel brands offer rewards for gallons consumed. AAA Members have exclusive access to the Shell Fuel Rewards program which instantly saves $.05 a gallon.