To fly my family anywhere it’d cost us at least $1000, and that just isn’t going to happen at this stage in our life. We love to travel, and it’s important to us to show the kids how different parts of our country are alike but very different. In order to have some fun traveling but stay within a tight budget, we’ve mastered the art of the road trip.
I can hear the groans now…my husband hated the thought of a road trip with 2 young kids too. I understand, trust me. “Are we there yet” and “I have to go to the bathroom” are two things you know come up on even short drives…so a drive over ten hours long? Eh. Don’t worry, I’ve got your back. Not only can you do this, but you can actually have a lot of fun doing it.
First of all, how much money do you have for this trip? You can factor in the cost of gas at FuelEconomy.Gov. First you enter in the vehicle (you can even add more than one!). Then enter in the starting and ending points, just like you do in google maps. It’ll tell you how much it costs in gas money and give you a map with turn by turn direction. You can draw a circle around your city and know that everything within that radius is within your gas budget. Go exploring!
Lodging is almost always cheaper online, but once you find the cheapest hotel rate online, give the hotel a call. Ask if they can beat that rate; you might be happily surprised. Going through the hotel cuts out the online middle man.
Road Trip Snacks
Eat as much as you can from grocery stores vs restaurants. You can get rotisserie chicken, potato salad and drinks much cheaper this way. An added perk: It’ll most likely taste better and be healthier for you as well. When we travel I try to pack snacks, sandwiches and cut veggies for our lunches, and we only eat at restaurants for dinner. This saves us a lot of money.
If you’ll be staying at a hotel for a long period of time, such as when you are moving to a new city, bring your own slow cooker. You can make a lot in a slow cooker and it’s fairly easy to clean up as well. Your family and checking account will thank you!
Gas (and Potty) Stops
I use Gas Buddy not only on road trips, but at home as well. Why pay more for the same exact gas a half mile down the road? You can easily save 5-10 cents a gallon this way, and over the course of your trip that adds up.
Plan those potty breaks around the gas stops. You have to figure that even “quick potty stops” cost you at least 15 minutes. On longer drives all those stops add up quickly. Limit how much the kids eat and drink in the back seat. Once you know that you’ll be stopping within 30 minutes, go ahead and let those kids snack! They’ll be ready to use the restroom and stretch their legs at the truck stop.
Road Trip Music
I still listen to CDs, and my Lover Boy CD is one of my favorites…much to Mississippi Man’s dismay. Choose a variety of music that you like and don’t listen to constantly. I love listening to Pandora through my phone, but this may or may not work in places without coverage. Do what works best for you and keep it up beat so when you’re energy runs out you’ll have something fun to keep you going.
Back Seat Fun (For kids!!!)
I’m a huge fan of these backseat DVD players. I hated to spend the money at first, but we only use these on long trips…not on grocery store trips. The DVD player keeps the kids calm and quiet for hours. I try to make them wait for at least an hour into the trip, that way they won’t get bored with movies too quickly. I hit up the dollar movie bin at Walmart too, that way they have new movies to keep them entertained. Throw those into a CD binder and you’re good to go!
You can also bring colored pencils and coloring books, but I would not bring crayons or markers. Remember that heat makes crayons melts, and I can tell you from experience that when they color on the headliner of your truck with those buggers…well it makes for a bad day.
For more tips and tricks check out Nomadic Matt. He has excellent articles with pictures and real experience for traveling as a family.