Summer time means vacation time for most people. With the kids out of school and the weather at its prime, most Americans are hitting the road to get away for a bit.
Whether it’s a day trip or a week-long vacation, we need to be careful with our spending. Little purchases can add up and leave us returning from our trip more stressed than we were before we left.
A lot of us are careful planners when it comes to vacations (let’s hear it for all my nerds out there)! We know exactly how much we’ll spend on attractions, hotel, and food while we’re at our destination.
So what can often throw off a vacation budget? Getting to and from the destination. That’s right, a lot of our impulse spending happens on the road. Luckily, there’s a few things we can do to fix this.
Pre-pack Your Favorite Gas Station Snacks
How many of you have found yourself browsing the aisles of a gas station convenient store with an armful of snacks? My hand is raised high and proud.
A road trip isn’t a road trip without some hot fries and powdered donuts (breakfast of champions)! The problem is, every time I stop to fill the tank I spend an extra $10 on junk food. I know that I’m going to want a snack; why not plan ahead?
Think about the foods you like to munch on while you’re on the road and buy them ahead of time. A $3 bag of chips at a gas station is probably only a dollar at the grocery store. You can get a 12 pack of sodas for the cost of a 20oz bottle at a gas station.
Stash these items in the back of your car and when you stop to pump gas, go shopping in your own ice chest. At the end of the trip not only will you be heavier, but your wallet will be too.
Find Some Fast Food Alternatives
Look, we all know that we’re going to need to eat something substantial on our trip. I mean, Funyuns and Skittles can only go so far. When the deep hunger hits, our stomach takes over the wheel and pulls us into the nearest drive thru.
I totally get it. Fast food is quick, convenient, and easy. Everyone can eat without any time lost on the road. However, depending on the length of the trip (and the size of the family), this can add up fast.
The most obvious substitution is to pack your own road meals. Some PB&J sandwiches and chips can go a long way on cutting vacation costs. I know, I know, I can hear your kids groaning at the thought of PB&J on vacation.
If skipping fast food is too much of a buzz kill on the family, try this; just buy the entrees. Pack your own chips and drinks and only buy the burger when you roll through the drive thru. This can save $3 a person on food costs.
Want an extra fun challenge? Tell everyone they can only choose 2 things from the dollar menu.
Be Strategic with Your Gas
No, I’m not talking about little Jimmy waiting for everyone to fall asleep before letting one rip in the back seat (sorry, couldn’t pass up a good fart joke). Plan when and where you’ll stop to fill up the tank.
Gas is typically cheaper outside of big cities in suburban areas. I know this is hard to find off of major highways, but don’t wait until you’re downtown to fill up the tank.
Also, filling up before the gas light starts blinking at you is a good idea. When this happens to me, I usually just pull into the next place, regardless of price.
There’s a fantastic app called GasBuddy that you can use. It generates a list of places with the cheapest gas in any given area. Not only that, but you can enter your trip into the app before you leave and it will plan your stops to fill up the tank based on lowest prices. It also shows an estimate for how much you’ll spend total round trip.
What are some money saving tips you use when going on vacation?
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