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By Susan Schooleman / Mar 18, 2015

Step on the Cheap Gas and Save This Summer

summer_driving

The answer to saving money this summer—and getting more from your time away from home—may be as close as your driveway.

More than half of Americans expect to use their cars to navigate their summer vacations as cheaper gas has fueled an increase in road trip plans.1 “When gas prices plunged last fall, a record number of travelers were expected for the year-end holidays. That momentum is likely to carry-over to the busy summer travel season as low gas prices make it easy to hit the road on a whim,” said Mark Jenkins, spokesman, AAA – The Auto Club Group. Gasoline prices typically rise between 30-50 cents during the spring, but even if that happens, AAA does not expect the gas-per-gallon national average to top $3 this summer.2

This is especially good news for families with children, because the equivalent airline tickets can costs thousands. One warning: Popular destinations may already be booked, so make reservations as early as you can. Or if you can’t get your first choice, consider taking a road less traveled.

Steps to take before you go.

Advance preparation can make all the difference for a successful road trip. Suggestions from the Travel Channel3 include:

  1. Get an overall tune-up and needed maintenance or repairs for your car.
  2. Set a budget, and estimate fuel costs with AAA’s Fuel Cost Calculator or Gasbuddy.com. Travelmath can show you which type of transportation is the most cost-effective.
  3. Ensure you have the following within reach when you open your trunk door: a tire iron, bottled water, fire extinguisher, first-aid kit and reflectors/flares.
  4. Check to make sure your spare tire is in working order.
  5. Stick to a one-bag-per person rule. The heavier your car, the worse your mileage.
  6. If you’re traveling with children, engage them by playing road-focused games, such as a scavenger hunt for sites along the way.

Online planning sites and apps.

Several online road-trip planning sites and apps can help you chart the best course for your trip. They include:

  • inRoute – Intelligent Route and Road Trip Planner allows you to chart multi-stop routes and view route conditions. The basic download is free, but you have to pay $3.99 to “unlock” features, such as adding 25 locations. The free version only allows five.
  • Myscenicdrives.com provides a U.S. map where you can plan a point-to-point trip, schedule stopovers and find areas of interest. Just pop in your start and finish. You’ll even receive a time estimate. You will have to create a free account to use the site.
  • The website, Planning Fun Road Trips, gives you ideas galore—especially if you don’t’ know where to begin. Suggestions include “Top 10 Road Trip Destinations” and “Best U.S. Routes.” It also offers “no-cooler” recipes and has a “Best Road Food Across the Nation” section.
  • Road Trip America offers a wide range of resources, including web-based road trip planners, and health and safety tips, such as eating well on the road.
  • Road Trip USA, is easy to navigate, and travel routes are listed according to geography—ranging from the “Pacific Coast” to “Route 66. It even suggests “trips of the month.”
  • TripAdvisor mobile app can be downloaded for free and will help you plan your trip from the beginning. Acting as a comprehensive travel service, it contains one of the largest repositories of hotel and destination reviews, along with ratings and photos.
  • The TouristEye app helps you plan any type of trip. As a free download, it allows you to collect and save ideas for future trips.

Take advantage of summer’s warmer temperatures by going on a road trip. Plus, your bank account will thank you!

1 “2015 AAA ConsumerTM Survey, Consumer Pulse, 2015.

2“AAA Survey: Americans Still Budget-Conscious Despite Lower Gas Prices,” AAA, February 12, 2015.

3Terry Ward, “Travel Tips: Fall Foliage Road Trips,” Travel Channel.

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