Best Ways to Save Money on a Road Trip

 

Looking for the best ways to save money on a road trip? You’ve come to the right place. We’re sharing the ways we’ve saved money while traversing the country. From the Saguaro Desert to Glacier National Park, we’ve packed in a lot of sites and haven’t broken the bank.

So here are some of our road trip tips to not only make road tripping affordable, but fun, too!

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Road Trip

Plan ahead

But aren’t road trips supposed to be spontaneous? Yes… but you don’t want to be disappointed when you get to, say, the Grand Canyon and it’s closed for renovation. Ha ha. Of course they don’t close the Grand Canyon, but during the peak season you might not get a camping spot if that’s your plan and you’ll having a hard time finding a hotel room. And then you’ll be paying out the wazoo because your choices will be limited. Planning ahead lets you find discounts and deals, as well as get a realistic idea of how much everything is going to cost.

Plan your route

I KNOW, this is all boring adulting sounding stuff, but it’s essential. This will help you calculate your budget for gas and food, and allow you search out nice picnic spots and inexpensive restaurants in advance. A note on gas prices – I would err on the high side since they fluctuate. I would also pad your food budget with a little extra money for the occasional spontaneous stop for ice cream

Will you stay in hotels or camp or both?

My family likes to mix it up when we road trip. We stay on hotels along the highway, but when visiting National Parks we camp because it’s cheap (around $30 a night) and saves time since you’re already in the park. Camping also allows for unique views and experiences:  watching shooting stars from our campsite at Mesa Verde National Park, walking by gentle mule deer on our way to the shower at the Grand Canyon, and waking up to coyote puppies howling from a cliff at Palo Duro Canyon.  Again, plan early to be able to pick and choose where you want to say (campsites close to the bathrooms are essential for us with three young kiddos).

Use hotel points

My husband travels some for his job and tries to stay in hotels that have rewards programs (Marriott has one of the best programs right now). We use the points to cut down on hotel costs and sometimes save money on food if the hotel includes breakfast.

Invest in a good tent

We get asked if we take an RV or use a tent. Well, an RV is something we might invest in one day, but for our road trips tent camping is the most cost-efficient for now.  To make it as easy and enjoyable as possible, we have invested in an “easy up” tent from Coleman like this one that literally pops up in two minutes, saving us time and hassle when we are camping in several different spots. The only downside is that it’s bulky. We have to strap it to the roof of our minivan, so if you have a small car that might be an issue. Then again, if you have a small car, you probably have a small family and don’t need a huge tent! 😉

S'more

Plan your food

We keep a small cooler filled with lunch items and snacks and a large one (this one like ours has wheels making it easy to drag to your camp site) with dinner items that I have mostly pre-cooked, packed in freezer bags and frozen. Good stuff like fajitas, bbq, spaghetti and chili. Then we use our Coleman stove to heat it up when we arrive at our destination (sometimes we’re pulling in there late, so it’s nice to just be able to heat and serve with out having to gather firewood, light a fire or mix up a bunch of ingredients. Plus, it’s healthier and cheaper than fast food.

Have kids use their allowance for souvenirs

It’s hard for them at times to be disciplined leading up to the trip, but so worth it when they have money of their own they’ve saved for souvenirs. And then you don’t constantly have to say no to every little trinket or stuffed animal they want to buy.

Use washable cups and plates, especially on long road trips

Also, we have a small drink cooler and fill it with water or powdered lemonade mix. Saves on space (no individual cans or bottles) and cost.

Buy a National Park Pass if you plan to see several parks

The park pass pays for itself if you’re seeing several parks, plus in our area there are several places the pass will get you in for free (National Battlefields and Memorials, for example). The National Parks also have many fun free things to do like ranger-led hikes and talks and especially for kids, the Junior Ranger program. Kids fill out a little educational workbook while you tour the park and when they’re done they are “sworn in” as Junior Rangers and get a free park pin – it’s a souvenir and fun all wrapped into one!

So those are some of the best ways to save money on a road trip. You can make wonderful memories and see amazing sites on a budget. How does Mount Rushmore, Yellowstone and Glacier National Park sound? Like the stuff of dreams? If you plan ahead and are wiling to give up a little luxury you can do it too!

Wishing you blessings and happy trails!

Susan

Cut-Your-Own Christmas Tree Farm Review

Christmas Tree Farms
A fun tradition of ours is hunting down the perfect Christmas tree at a North Carolina tree farm. Since our budget is tighter than usual this year, we decided to forgo the trip and shop at Lowes. But there is nothing quite like being out in the crisp mountain air amid the rows and rows of Christmas trees and coming upon the perfect one (like Chevy Chase in Christmas Vacation).

Most farms we’ve visited offer basically the same services – you hunt down your tree on your own and either cut it down yourself or wait for a helper to come cut it for you. They then haul it away, wrap it and tie it to your car. There are many within a few hours’ drive of Atlanta (our home base). Some are bare bones where you just find your tree and go, but others offer food, visits with Santa and more. Here are a few of the farms that my family has tried and enjoyed.

Boyd Mountain Christmas Tree Farm
www.boydmountainchristmastreefarm.com
Boyd Mountain Tree Farm offers a nice selection of trees and a fairly straight-forward operation. Though it was a long wait from cutting down our tree to being able to pick it up, our kiddos enjoyed the hot chocolate and visiting with Santa. Since it’s close to Waynesville, you can make a day of it by enjoying lunch in town before heading home.

Sandy Hollar Tree Farm
sandyhollarfarms.com
Sandy Hollar is a laid back operation and a little more rustic. You take a wagon ride through the farm up to the orchard and while they have some helpers to assist you in cutting your tree, most people use one of the provided hacksaws to avoid having to wait. They offer hot chocolate and snacks along with a small gift shop.

Tom Sawyer Tree Farm
http://www.tomsawyerchristmastreefarm.com/
Tom Sawyer has been our go-to for several years because it offers one of the most picturesque settings, as well as many activities. While the prices have increased in recent years, the kids have enjoyed the “Elf Village” where they can dress up as elves and enjoy face painting, crafts, stories, roasting marshmallows and a scavenger hunt ending with a personal visit with Santa. There is also a gift shop, snacks, horse-drawn carriage rides and more.

There are, of course, many more tree farms out there to try – visit http://www.ncchristmastrees.com/ for a comprehensive list. Some friends we know like to stick with the same one year after year while others bounce from place to place. It’s an adventure no matter where you go, and where there are adventures, there are always memories to be made. Happy Christmas tree hunting!

Blessings!

Susan