Remember the days of the family road trip? Everyone gathered in the station wagon or minivan to head off to some predetermined destination. Dad refused to ask for directions – in the days before GPS – and mom worried about every little detail and did her best to keep the kids occupied. Aside from GPS, a family road trip is still pretty much the same experience it has always been. You’re going to hear some version of “Are we there yet” and somebody’s going to forget to go potty. When everybody is trying to save a buck or two, family road trips can be a great way to get away from home without breaking the bank.
Before You Go…
Assuming you’ve already agreed on a destination, the next step is to figure out how you’re going to get there. If it’s an adults-only getaway, consider carpooling with friends. If kids are coming along for the family fun, consider either going with another family that’s bringing kids or bringing two cars if it’s going to get cramped. This also eases the bickering and the “he’s staring at me again” comments. Walmart and Target usually have everything you need at prices you can afford. If you have to stop and get recharged along the way, consider discount hotel chains such as Motel 6 and Days Inn. Hotwire.com is one site where you can find discount hotels and look at reviews from guests so you know what to expect. Other things to consider before you go:
- Gas – Sites like GasBuddy.com come in handy when looking to find cheap gas along your travel route. If you’ve got a mobile device with wifi, this is the time to use it.
- Bring Food – You can’t take pudding pops and ice cream cones, but stocking up on some light snacks is a good way to avoid the temptation to stop at every fast food place you see.
- Avoid Toll Highways and Crowded Roads – This gives you a chance to see some local sights you might otherwise miss. And by avoiding toll highways, you save on tolls and fees.
- Cheap Hotels/Lodgings – Budget vacations should include cheap hotels if you want to maximize your savings. This doesn’t have to mean sacrificing quality. Many cheap hotels are actually very nice. Hotel chains like Holiday Inn and Best Western tend to have cheap rooms and decent amenities. And if Fido is in tow, it’s good to know that Motel 6 accepts dogs and cats at no additional fee.
Let the Fun Begin…
Once you hit the road, you’re probably going to be spending a lot of time together as family. The love may fade fast if there’s not something to keep the kids occupied while mom and dad are driving. Let’s face it, kids don’t appreciate the fine art of conversation. Here are a few ways to keep your kids occupied without resorting to electronic or Internet-connected devices.
- Scavenger Hunt – Make a list of things your kids will likely spot on the road such as vans, trucks, flag poles, traffic signs or even animals such as cows and horses if you’re driving through farm areas.
- Puzzles – You can easily download these on sites like thekidzpage.com. Puzzles can be a fun way to keep kids occupied. Throw in a few with pictures or images that can be colored with crayons or markers and you have two activities in one.
- Pipe Cleaners – Kids tend to be low-tech until they discover the wonderful world of Apple. Bring some pipe cleaners, balloons, construction paper, drawing pads and other arts and craft supplies and your kids will be busy for a while.
- Cookie Sheets – Nobody’s going to be baking cookies while you’re on the road, so bring some metal cookie sheets and magnets so your kids can make magnet people for some imagination-based fun.
Stop at chain restaurants – most have kid-friendly menus perfect for cost-conscience parents – stay at out-of-the-way hotels or bed and breakfasts along your route, throw in plenty of activities for the kids, and you’ll soon discover the joy of cheap road trips. Planning a road trip on a budget doesn’t have to mean foregoing fun. A road trip isn’t about getting to your destination as quickly as possible. Sometimes, it’s the getting there part that’s the most fun. Maybe you won’t hear the phrase “Are we there yet?” after all. Now that’s a fun family vacation.
This post was written by a guest contributor. About the Author:
Kim Bryant is a freelance blogger, who sometimes writes for www.carinsurance.org.uk, a website that offers great deals on car insurance – perfect to have for that next family road trip.