Top Ways to Save Money on Your Summer Road Trip

Summer is the ideal time for road trips. The sun is out and the weather is warm, so it's tempting to take to the open road with the windows open or with the top of a convertible down. But driving isn't cheap these days. So, whether you’re just driving to the beach or trekking across the country, you might want to look to save some bucks.

For instance, if your trip is starting in one state, but ending in another, don’t rent a car as the company will charge you an exorbitant amount for dropping the car off in a different state. You’re better off taking your own car.

Here are seven other ways to save money on your summer road trip.

Car maintenance

There are a number of things you can check out on your car before you even hit the road that can help you save money. Keeping your care properly tuned can improve gas mileage, so can keeping your tires properly inflated. Low tire pressure creates a drag on the pavement, which affects your gas. Also, clean air filters are better for your engine.

Sleep under the stars
If you are the camping type, spending the night for free in a national park can help you keep some money in your wallet. And on a clear summer night, sleeping under the stars isn’t the worst way to spend the night.

However, if you aren’t a camper, or don’t already have the gear, you might want to give this a pass, as the cost of a tent and sleeping bags would defeat the purpose of camping to save money. Plus, remember to check the National Park Service site for any requirements or permits needed for parks.

Bring your own food
A cooler and some food from home can cut down on the price of dining out, and it will be healthier than going for the cheap, fast food option. Prices at the grocery store are cheaper than buying your meals. Plus, you can always re-stock on really long drives.

And if you absolutely have a craving for some fast food, then avoid the drive-thru, where your car will simply be idling and wasting gas. Instead, park it, stretch your legs and head inside to grab your grub.

Save on gas
There are a number of tiny things you can do that on their own might not make much of a dent in your gas bill, but put them all together and you might see the difference. If the heat isn’t too bad, roll down your windows instead of blasting the air conditioner.

Find cheap gas
There are plenty of websites or apps out there dedicated to finding you the cheapest gas stations in the area. And maybe that doesn’t matter so much in Alabama or Mississippi, where gas is, on average, between $3 and $3.14. But you’ll probably feel differently in Illinois where gas is between $3.28 and $3.41 in one county and between $3.69 and $3.82 in the next county.

Slow down
Sudden stops and starts and speeding can decrease your mileage potential by 33%, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Slow acceleration and maintaining your speed will help you greatly and mean you have to fill up less.

Cruise control will be your friend on flat, open roads because you won’t find yourself accidentally speeding up. (It can also reduce the chance of you getting a speeding ticket.) However, if you’re in a hilly area, opt to take off the cruise control, because the feature won’t be helping you there.

Check the traffic
Under the category of avoiding sudden starts and stops, you might want to check traffic before you drive. Avoid rush hour so you aren’t just sitting in the car with the engine running. Some GPS and smartphones have a feature that will show you in real time what the traffic looks like where you’re going. You can also check it on Google Maps. Planning ahead in this area will not only save you a little on gas, but some time and frustration.

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