We love to visit our family that live all over the US. We’re retired, so we have the time for road trips to do that. Some people might be able to travel cheaper or for the same cost as a road trip. Some just don’t have the time, but my husband is obsessed with loves driving. We’ve found a few ways to not cringe when we see the gas/fuel prices when on a road trip. Here are the tricks we used on a recent trip that might help you. Some might seem radical, but we are comfortable with them.
1. Our biggest saver was to combine trips that we could have taken separately. That way we had a triangle route instead of taking two separate trips. That saved about 600 miles overall. It also meant we needed a hotel room only one night instead of two. That saved about $80; we use Priceline or Hotwire to get good discounts on decent rooms.
2. Drive the vehicle that gets the best mileage. We drove our small VW Golf instead of our big van. That meant we used half–HALF!– the usual fuel for the same amount of miles. We’ve driven these routes many times and have learned where the stations are with the lowest prices. When we are on less familiar routes we check for best prices using www.gasbuddy.com.
We were actually quite comfortable driving 10-11 hours a day in the Golf, and no one could believe all the stuff we packed in the car. It was almost as much as we take in our van. We didn’t have to leave anything at home that we wanted to bring. This would not work for a family as well, but for just the two of us it was great. My husband is 6’4″, so if he can ride in it comfortably, people of many different sizes can. We’ve decided to drive the Golf from now on for trips unless we need the room to transport something large or a lot of stuff. When we take the van we can put in the platform bed to sleep in for camping. That saves sometimes, but the money saved by taking the Golf just about pays for a hotel room.
3. We only needed a hotel room one night because we stayed with family the rest of the trip. We use Priceline or Hotwire for a hotel room that ususally costs about &70-$80 for a very comfortable room.
4. We pack snacks and lunch food. When driving the Golf we don’t make room for a cooler, and we tend to eat fast food on the road. We did eat 2 meals in the car at rest stops with food we’d brought. One of those lunches was sort of necessary because we were out in the middle of nowhere & there were no restaurants around. I prefer to eat fast food but my husband craves his usual lunch of an orange, a peanut butter sandwich, and a V-8. I don’t think this saved us much, but it was probably healthier. It does save quite a bit to bring your own snacks rather than buying them though.
5. Avoid tolls in areas where they are high. Some states have tolls that are reasonable, and others change almost $1 a mile. Take a parallel route or alternate route when the tolls are excessive. That saved us almost $50 alone. It added maybe 30 minutes to our travel time and was less stressful to drive with so little traffic. It sometimes takes us into areas with few restaurants and gas stations, so we plan for that. If you are using GPS it will most likely route you on toll roads. We turn off the GPS while we are rerouting ourselves to the parallel non-toll road. When we get to the new road we turn the GPS back on. I wouldn’t take alternate routes when they are not parallel roads or when they involve many small roads. We’ve done that and it doesn’t work well. Bring along a paperback read atlas to be sure of your route.
6. We usually drive about 4-5 miles over the speed limit, but most people get the best mileage at 55 miles per hour. That can bring significant savings if you usually drive faster. It takes some getting used to, so you might back off your usual speed a bit at a time. We use speed control for best miles per gallon when we’re on the highway. If we get a lot of wind we back off on the speed a bit as the wind resistance cuts down on gas mileage. It’s also safer, especially if you have a high profile vehicle like a van.
7. Use GPS to drive the best route.
You can set it for the fastest route or the shortest route. The shortest route will save money, and it will also take you through some interesting places. Weigh your need for a speedy trip when choosing.
8. Once at our destinations we did spend on eating out for dinners with family, but we take turns picking up the bill. We bring breakfast and lunch food to help keep the weight off a little bit with all that eating out. It also saves some money and doesn’t put an extra load on our families that we are visiting.
9. The next time you are looking to buy a car, keep mileage an important factor in making your choice. If you are looking for a good small car, think about getting a Golf. We were getting 45-52 miles per gallon depending on the direction of the wind and whether it was city driving or not.. I don’t know of any other car that gets that kind of mileage. Of course it is diesel, but we’ve been very happy with it overall. If you need a larger car, at least consider the mileage statistics as an important factor in making your decision.
BONUS: Click here for an easy way to save even more money on gas. Enjoy the savings and enjoy your trip!