Shall we start with the bad news or the worse news? Last year was the priciest year on record for gasoline, with the average gallon selling for an all-time high of over $3.50. Unfortunately, the AAA says that we’re already on track for an even worse time of it in 2012, and predicts that we’ll see gas prices climb to $4 or more by summer.
But don’t cancel your visit to mom this weekend or your big summer road trip just yet. Driving can still beat the cost of air travel if you’re traveling as a couple or group and it’s important to know that you can significantly trim your travel costs with just a few minor tactical adjustments. Here are six easy ways to keep costs down on your summer road trip:
- Prep your car. Car experts recommend getting a tune-up before you set off on a big road trip because when it comes to fuel economy, little things can make a big difference. A dirty air filter, improperly inflated tires or poor spark plugs can reduce gas mileage by 12 percent to 20 percent. During a road trip of several hundred miles, that can really add up. Also, when making your packing list, don’t use the car as an excuse to bring everything but the kitchen sink. Experts estimate that for every 250 pounds you haul, your car loses one mile per gallon in fuel economy.
- Fix your own food. When you eat out three meals a day, every day, for an entire week, your total food bill can easily spiral out of control. Consider opting for extended-stay hotels, such as Homewood Suites or DoubleTree Hotels. Having a small kitchen (or even a fridge plus a microwave) will give you control over how often you need to dine out. Fixing just one meal a day in your vacation digs can save you over a hundred dollars over the duration of your getaway. As a bonus, with a condo or kitchenette room, you typically get much more space for you money than you would in a standard hotel room at the same price point.
- Google for gas rebates. Beginning in early May, keep an eye peeled for hotels offering gas credits to lure guests to spend a few nights with them this summer. Gas rebates have long been a summer fixture in the hotel biz—typically with amounts hovering in the paltry $10 to $20 range—but last summer’s high gas prices pushed some hotels into offering gas credits of $50 or even $100 per trip. With gas poised to be cost even more this summer, you can expect a nice selection of gas rebates in 2012, too.
- Bring a cooler. For those long days when you’re on the road, a cooler is absolutely indispensable – not only for convenience but for sticking to your budget. Stock up at local grocery stores on sandwich makings, snacks and beverages, and look forward to stopping at scenic picnic spots along the way. Sure beats the alternative of overpriced fast food and $2 bottles of water you find at highway rest areas.
- Snag CVB coupons. Always visit the online version of your destination’s tourism office or convention and visitors bureau (a.k.a. CVB) before you leave home, and poke around for a discounts or coupons page. For instance, if you head to the San Diego CVB coupons page, you’ll find that it’s full with money-saving discounts on everything from harbor cruises and meals to tickets for top local attractions such as Legoland and hot-air balloon outfitters.
- Travel with a thrifty friend. The free GasBuddy app goes a step further than other gas calculators, using current prices from gas stations along your route to estimate your total spend. Bonus points: GasBuddy even estimates where you’ll need to refill your tank and it lets you know which gas station in that vicinity offers the cheapest gas prices.
Travel Savvi: With Savvi You Can Save Big on Your Next Roadtrip:
–Save on tires, oil changes, and other auto maintenance.
– Save up to 40% or more on your hotel stay
–Never travel without your Savvi mobile app. You’ll find discounts on dining, entertainment and more.
Where are you road tripping this year?