Taking a road trip with your family is a great way to spend quality time together. You get to learn new things, see new places, and gain new experiences! Some of the most memorable times I have as a child are when we were on the road, our longest road trip was even 18 hours! Now as a parent, I know it can get expensive fast if you don’t have a plan in tact. Plus, when traveling with little ones and even the older kiddos they get bored SO easily. Last year, our family took a 3-day road trip (with 4 kids) and we learned quickly that we needed to implement some organization and budgeting into our vacation! So, I set out to find the best tricks, games and tips to keep the kids occupied and adults happy that they’re saving money while taking a road trip!
Because.. WHO doesn’t like saving money? More vacations, right?
- Make a Plan – Whether it’s a day trip or a week-long trip. Make. A. Plan. Write down every place you’re planning on going, and have it mapped out on paper so everyone is aware of what’s happening. If you have it all written and planned out, you’re more likely to stick to it. Make sure to include stops in between for gas, bathroom breaks, or even that gigantic taco museum on the way! Making a plan will eliminate any room for sudden splurges on food or events. We like to bring a pocket folder and include everything we plan on using the entire trip.. Coupons, tickets, gift cards, etc.
- Never Pay for Breakfast – Breakfast is the cheapest and easiest meal of the day to supply. Whether you like eggs, cereal, bacon, granola bars, donuts, cinnamon rolls, or even breakfast burritos, you can prep all these things before hand and have them ready to grab for breakfast time! This also takes the hectic out of the morning if you’re planning on heading back out on the road. BONUS: Check with your hotel to see if they offer free breakfast! Most hotels offer cereal, bagels, and even sausage and eggs!
- Keep the Kids Happy – Usually within 30 minutes of driving, our kids are known to get bored and start resorting to saying things like “Can we stop somewhere?” or “I’m hungry”. We like to create a personal bag and folder for each of the kids that include snacks, drinks, and activities throughout the trip. The activities range for each child as they are all different ages. The younger children have coloring pages and number sheets, while the older kids have scavenger hunts and wordsearches. When packing the snack bag, we lay out all the available snacks and drinks on the counter and let each kid pick 6 or 7 snacks and 2 or 3 drinks (depending on the duration of the trip) to fill up their bag. This way they get to choose something they know they won’t waste later and they take responsibility for their choices.
- Combine your Expenses – Planning on going to a waterpark or an amusement park? Do some research on your destination to see if they offer discounts on hotels or dining. Some places usually have packages that include admission to their park AND nightly stays at a nearby hotel. You can save on gas, lodging, and fun!
- Fill up – Before you leave for your trip, make sure your gas tank is filled up, or you’re planning to get gas first thing after you leave. Then, try only to refill when you’re almost on empty or getting close. This eliminates any extra gas station expenses such as drinks, snacks, or unwanted and overpriced gas station “souvenirs”. (You can purchase souvenirs on your time!)
- Plan for error – Always have a tiny budget set aside for any surprises you may have along the way. This will help you budget in things that pop up along the way like a restaurant you’ve always wanted to try that you didn’t know was along the way or say there was an unexpected parking fee you had to pay. An extra $75-$100 does it for us. Considering admission to anywhere per person is usually at least $12, or the average meal per person could be anywhere from $7 to $20. Pick an amount that works for your family.
- Have Fun – Literally! Don’t stress about everything going perfect the entire trip. Sure, maybe the hotel you choose may not be as “4 star” as the reviews stated, or you ended up making an extra stop for windshield fluid. You can always tailor your plans if you need to. The most important factor in road trips are quality time with the people you love! So, put on a show, throw in a sing-a-long CD, or even put together a road sign scavenger hunt. These are the memories that stick with your kids for their lifetime.