Nothing really captures the unhurried feeling of summer like jumping in the car for a famil road trip, but toss the word “budget” into the mix and you might want to throw on the brakes. Budgeting doesn’t have to mean restrictions and missing out on the carefree fun of a family vacation, though. Check out these family road trips tips that help you save some cash and still feel like you are creating rich vacation memories.
Make it a Mom Meal
One of the biggest money grabbers on long road trips is fast food stops. My kids are always clambering for a stop at McDonald’s, where they swear they just love the food, but the real draw is the brightly colored box and cheap toy. Enter Mom Meals. I purchased messenger bags at the dollar store and customized them for each child with their name and interests. Inside, I pack a great sack lunch that includes a super fun toy. This gives us much more in terms of nutrition and variety and is easy on the budget. Usually, we will find a nice rest stop and enjoy our meal and then hop back in the car with full bellies to play with our new toys. Talk about a happy meal!
Restructure your Rest Stops
Family road trips aren’t complete without someone sounding the potty alarm from the back seat. In the frantic search for the nearest restroom, gas stations are often the chosen stopping place. But, aside from being questionable in the cleanliness department, gas stations are really hard on your budget. All those snack sized bags of chips and colorful rows of candy are often too tempting to pass up, and buying for the whole family can really add up. Skip the temptation altogether by planning your rest stops ahead of time to include an interesting roadside attraction or quirky museum. Roadside America is a great resource to find fun stops along your route where you can stretch your legs, see a bit of Americana, and take a pit stop. Often these attractions are free, so you can add more fun to your vacation without spending a dime.
Hungry kids are cranky kids, so frequent snacks while traveling is a must. Stopping for snacks along the way will only eat into your budget, so prepare special road trip treats before your leave home so they are easy to grab on the go. Mixing up a fun and healthy trail mix and storing them in bags with printable road trip topper makes these treats extra special for the kids. My kids always look forward to “Road Trip Trail Mix” because they love to see what new treats I’ve added to the mix. Best of all, not only am I saving money, but I can be sure the kids are getting a healthy and nutritious snack.
Travel Kit Trade Off
The enemy of the successful road trip is a bored kid sitting too close to the person in the next seat. The perfect way to stave off the mini mutiny is to be prepared with tons of fun, car-friendly activities. Offering kids some new activities to keep their interest is a great boredom buster, but buying those activities can really add up.
A fun way to be sure your car is stocked with entertainment and watch your budget is to get together with a group of friends to create a travel kit tradeoff. Here’s how it works: Each family will fill a plastic box with travel friendly, non consumable toys and games. Then, when it is time to travel you collect and swap the boxes so that you have a variety of activities ready to go in your car.
As Budget TravelingMom, Jessica Bowers is out to prove that being on a budget doesn’t mean you have to miss out on seeing the world. She blogs at Suitcases and Sippy Cups, where she shares the trials and triumphs of traveling with four boys ages 12-2.