Preparing for a frugal holiday road trip

by Karen on December 18, 2008


photo by munzer

I can’t believe we’re hitting the road in less than a week! I’m so excited to see friends and family for the first time in 6 months, but I’m rushing to finish last minute preparations for what will be a pretty big trip.

We’ll be traveling a total of 2,000 miles in 12 days on a shoestring budget. Here are some of things we’re doing to keep our costs low.

We’re driving ourselves.

Plane tickets are more expensive than ever. Even when gas prices were higher, driving was still the most economical option for us. We drive a small, fuel efficient car in good condition, so even when gas prices were $4 a gallon, our total costs would have been about $350 round trip. That’s about the cost of a single plane ticket. With current gas prices, we’ll probably only spend about $200.

We’re bringing the dog.

Boarding him for a week and half would have easily added $200 to our total travel costs. Instead, we’re loading him into the backseat and bringing him with us.

We’re packing snacks.

We have healthy snacks like fruit, raisins, and granola to help us save money on expensive (and unhealthy) food on the road.

We booked our hotel room in advance.

The trip will take about 12 hours of driving. Add to that extra stops for bathroom breaks and dog walking, and we’ll probably be driving for a total of 14 hours each way. To make the trip easier on us and our hyperactive dog, we’re splitting it up into two legs. We’ll drive half of the distance Tuesday night, stop to sleep, then finish the trip bright and early on Christmas Eve.

I booked a room for us at the halfway point at a cheap, dog-friendly hotel. When I booked the room two months ago, Hotel Club was offering a $25 discount off already discounted prices. We paid only $65 for a night at a moderately rated travel hotel. According to reviews, it’s clean and comfortable. They also don’t charge extra for pets.

Most importantly, we don’t risk spending a fortune for an overpriced room just because we’re exhausted and tired of driving. The room is prepaid, and we know exactly where we’ll stop for the night.

We had the car checked out.

With a tight schedule and cold temperatures, we didn’t want to take any chances on car trouble. So we took some money from our car maintenance fund for an oil change, tire rotation, and inspection to make sure everything is in good working order.

We’re prepared for emergencies.

There’s always a possibility for car problems, bad weather, and other mishaps. To ensure our safety, we’re packing extra blankets, food, water, cash, a spare tire, and jumper cables. We also have a membership to AAA, so we can call roadside assistance if we need a tow or other assistance.

Thanks to some advance planning, it’s shaping up to be a pretty stress free road trip. Hopefully the dog will cooperate. I’ll let you know how it turns out! :)

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