By Caroline Hailey, GOBankingRates.com (TNS)
Many of us don’t want to admit it, but the end of summer is just around the corner. With the three-day Labor Day weekend coming up, now is the perfect time to plan a road trip and have one last great summer weekend.
Although air travel is expected to be very popular this year – more than 14 million people are expected to fly during the seven-day Labor Day travel period, according to Airlines for America – you might decide to travel by car instead. While it’s true that road trips can be much cheaper than flying, expenses can still add up if you aren’t careful with your money.
To ensure your road trip stays budget-friendly, follow these five road trip tips:
GET YOUR CAR CHECKED OUT FIRST
First thing’s first – you can’t have a road trip without a car. Get your car checked by a technician before embarking on any road trip. The tires should be checked to make sure they have the right air pressure. And if you’re almost due for an oil change, get it done before you leave. Check that all the lights are working properly and take an extra minute to clean dirt off the headlights to make it easier to drive at night. You would much rather find out about a problem while you can still fix it before your Labor Day trip.
FIND A GOOD GAS CREDIT CARD
Another great step to take before you hit the road is to get a credit card that specifically rewards you when you fill up on gas. Since gas is one of the main expenses for any road trip, having a card that gives you cash back or other rewards can be an easy way to save money.
AVOID TOLL BOOTHS
There are few things more annoying to pay than highway tolls, especially when they can cost $15 or more over the course of a one-way trip in some areas, according to CostToDrive.com. Your smartphone, GPS or even Google Maps can help you find ways to navigate around the tolls.
PACK YOUR OWN FOOD
Planning ahead when it comes to food can help you save a lot in the long run. Instead of stopping every few hours to eat at a restaurant, why not pack easy to eat items like muffins or cereal bars for breakfast? For lunch, fill a cooler with cold cuts and bring along nuts and granola bars. Not only will you be saving money by not eating out for breakfast and lunch, but you’ll also save time by not having to stop as frequently and wait for your food to be prepared.
FIND LOCAL DEALS
Being cheap while traveling doesn’t always mean you have to skip out on nice restaurants and pricier entertainment. There are many ways to find coupons for local attractions that are great for the summertime, such as boat rides, Segway tours and fancy restaurants. Browse sites like Groupon and Living Social a few days or weeks before you leave to see what deals are available in your planned vacation destination. Just pay attention to any expiration dates, rules and limitations.
Photo: Drivers can improve fuel economy by traveling at steady speeds, anticipating stops and making sure tires are properly inflated. (Photo courtesy Fotolia/TNS)