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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Planning a Long Road Trip on a Budget

 This summer my brother is getting married. Hooray for him! Halfway across the country. Murg. No stay-cation for us this year. (I am married to a high school teacher who when the school year is done will go back to being a full-time student. And as it turns out there are almost no differences between being married to a teacher and being married to a student. Either way money's tight.)  I checked out airlines and they would be way too much. So we're planning a road trip. Even if gas goes up to $4 per gallon, it will cost a third of what it would to fly. Here are some ways that I plan on making it work:
  • Plan stops- We've charted out our destinations based on fun things to do. I've been booking our hotels online based on these. I like to use the travel options on the Upromise website. It's a fairly quick way to compare hotel prices. For example, I snagged one 2 1/2 star hotel in Denver for $25 a night, plus the Upromise rebate. I'm certain I would not get a deal that good if we just grabbed something as we rolled into town.
  • Plan snacks- I've been slowly stocking up on snacks that are cheap (several even free with coupons.) I know I've already saved a ton versus buying everything right before we go, or even worse in gas stations along the way.
  • Find coupons ahead of time- Again planning required. We'll spend a couple days in Chicago, so when the Entertainment Books went on sale for $7.50 shipped, I bought one. Even if we only use one of the coupons I'll get my money's worth. Some cities also have printable coupons available online for various attractions.
  • Prepare the car- Right before we leave I'll have the oil changed, the tires rotated and inflated so we'll get the best possible mileage.
  • Plan entertainment- Aside from planning lots of fun stops in order to make a week of sitting in the car bearable for my kids, I've been planning car entertainment. New toys and books will hold their attention longer. I snagged some Sponge-Bob books last week from B&N, which I know will be a hit.
  • Leave the unnecessary behind- Space is limited in a tiny car with great mileage.
  • The cooler is your friend- We found the best way to go is to fill it 1/2-2/3rds full with frozen solid drinks. (Caprisuns and Kool-Aid Bursts work well.) Fill the remainder with other drinks and snacks. This way you don't deal with melted ice and you don't get water in your food. The frozen drinks keep the other things cool, and when they melt you have more chilled drinks. We've done this several times and found that frozen Caprisuns will stay at least slushy in a cooler for at least 5 days if you keep the lid shut.

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