With gas prices fluctuating wildly, many families are planning “closer to home” driving vacations this summer. But whether you’re driving to Grandma’s house or to the Grand Canyon, vacations don’t need to cost the equivalent of next month’s wages. A little preparation and planning can save you loads of money when traveling. Here are some valuable tips to follow:
* Before you leave, have your car inspected by a mechanic you trust. Check the tires, the windshield wipers and the seat belts. Get any recommended maintenance done. Taking these precautions can prevent you from having to make costly repairs with mechanics you don’t know.
* Start freezing extra ice for the cooler a few days before you go and pack it in plastic bags. Freeze containers of drinking water to put in a handy place in the car to thaw slowly over the day.
* Eat some of your meals in the car. Pack a cooler of familiar, inexpensive food. Sandwiches, fried chicken, raw vegetables, hard-cooked eggs, fruit and cheese all travel well. Add a plastic bag of washcloths for cleaning up in the car, or stop at a park or rest area and have a picnic.
* Pack simple, affordable snacks in a plain paper or plastic bag. Buy fruit in season, trail mix, snack crackers and granola bars. Pop some popcorn and bag it. Make cookies.
* Know that children WILL become bored, restless, grouchy and tired sooner or later. Packing familiar activities and games from home, and playing travel games together will help them deal with the monotony of riding for several hours. Stop at rest areas to stretch and walk.
* To get the best rates, stay at a motel as far away from major tourist attractions as you reasonably can. Lodging near tourism areas is notoriously expensive.
A driving vacation can be a lot of fun â€“ and as frugal as you’re willing to make it. So make your road trip memorable and affordable this summer.
Editor’s Note: This article was first published in Lehman’s Front Porch print newsletter In June 2005. We think the tips still apply, and maybe even more so in 2011! If you’re planning a trip to Lehman’s and Ohio’s Amish Country, click here for information and directions.