Hobbies on a budget, July 15

By Sharon Williams

Contributing columnist 

How to Save Money on Road Trips

Taking a vacation or spending time on the road means you have to spend money. There’s gas for the vehicles, food for the family and lodging to pay for. But even though you have to spend money, there are ways to spend smart. Whether you are at the gas station, motel or grabbing food at a local restaurant, here are some ideas to help you save money on road trips. 

 Save at the Pump: Gas is a necessary expense when you take a road trip, but if you are a bit picky where you stop then you can save some money. It’s always great to look for the cheapest gas, but it sometimes makes more sense in the long run to be loyal to a particular chain when possible. Sign up for a loyalty card and earn points and get discounts with each fill up.

* Real Life Tip: We have multiple gas cards that we have signed up for on various trips. Since we don’t want to weigh down our key chains, we keep these fuel cards in our glove box so we have them ready wherever we go.

Save on Lodging: Most people have preferences for where they like to stay. So pick your favorite chain and then become a loyal customer. Sign up for their free rewards programs and earn points toward future free stays.

* Real Life Tip: It doesn’t hurt to sign up for multiple hotel rewards clubs. That way, if you find yourself in an area with a different rewards program, you can still be earning points.

Save on Snacks, Entertainment: We don’t eat a lot of donuts or go to many restaurants when we are home. But when we travel, we love to have something fun and out of the ordinary. A great way to splurge without blowing your food budget is to buy a Groupon coupon. There are often deals that come through for $10 off a $20 Dunkin Donuts purchase or $5 for $10 at Starbucks. 

Another great way to save on snacks is to stock up at your local grocery before you leave town. You can buy a case of waters or sodas when they go on sale the weeks leading up to your trip and not have to pay full price at gas stations or attractions.

* Real Life Tip: If you are planning to do any exploring in a large city, then you may want to pack a reusable filtered water bottle so you can safely refill your water supply from public water fountains for free.

Cash out your change: We have a piggy bank where we save all the loose change that we find in our car, home or in the bottom of my purse. Before we leave for vacation, we cash out the change and have spending money for the trip. On one vacation, we cashed it out and split it five ways so everyone had some bonus souvenir money.

Decide on souvenirs before you leave: Most kids love to collect souvenirs from the places they visit and these souvenirs cost quite a bit of money. If you have young children and plan ahead, you can save money by buying souvenirs before you go. Pick up a stuffed panda bear at home and then have it waiting on their pillow on the day they go visit the zoo. Heading to Disney? Pick up some princess or character toys to surprise the kids with at the hotel instead of paying big bucks at the souvenir shop.

* Real Life Tip: Another cheap souvenir idea is to help your kids start a pressed penny collection. You simply pay .51 for each pressed penny and can collect them at every location.

What are your tips for saving money on road trips? I’d love to hear!

For more ideas on hobbies and life, check out Hobbies on a Budget (www.hobbiesonabudget.com)