Sunday, March 13, 2016

Five Ways To Save Money on a Road Trip with the Kids

I created this post as part of a sponsored series with Socialstars and Shell; all opinions are my own. #ShellCrowd #ad

I used to pile in the back of our station wagon with my brother. Sitting rear facing with no seat belts while we played electronic football and motioned to any trucker who caught our eye to scare my dad by laying on his horn. Unfortunately, memories of the road trip for me have always been what didn't work out like sleeping in a tiny single bed with my younger brother who always stole the covers or the time my mom confiscated my Guns N Roses tape because she wanted to play what I was listening to on the car radio.

Spring Break is fast approaching and the summer is right around the corner. That means that families are in the throes of planning their vacations. If you're driving to save money on airfare, you're piling up into the family car with your young 'uns for a good old fashioned family car trip. If you're taking your own family across the country on a road trip, here are some easy ways to survive and save money at the same time.

1. Pack Your Own Lunch

It seems simple enough though you would be surprised how many families hit the open road thinking that they will just follow the road where it might take them.  Sometimes this pays off and you find something amazing but in my experience dealing with a hangry child is not fun. That's when they start to melt down, kick your chair and go into constant whine mode.

My kids are 70% goldfish so it's good to have a plan around your eating habits when you travel. Pack a lunch, snacks, and plenty of water for the car. Smaller water bottles are good for car rides so that bathroom breaks don't slow down your progress. If your child is still doing sippy cups, bring one that fits in the car's cupholders or it may end up rattling your nerves as it bounces around the car interior. If you see a cool place to stop along the way, have an impromptu picnic. That experience will stay with them longer than any restaurant you can find.

2. Use the Shell #FuelRewards Card

The main expense on a road trip is going to be gasoline.  Why not get rewarded for the things you are buying while on your trip so that you can get a discount at the pump?  Become a member of the Shell Rewards Fuel Card and link it to and existing credit card. New members who sign up can get a $.25 per gallon discount. Know a friend who is travelling cross country? Refer them and both of you will earn that $.25 per gallon discount if they sign up too.  You can earn $.10 per gallon when you spend $50 on dining out and $.05 per gallon for every $50 you spend online. Saving with #FuelRewards can be easy and everyday expenses will add up to savings.

3. Plan Your Route Ahead of Time

There's something about the road less traveled that may be calling you but planning ahead about where you want to stop along the way is going to help you answer questions like "Are we there yet?" and "How much longer?' Planned stops can give the kids something to look forward to while on the road and reduce the number of sighs from the back seat when they tell you they are bored. It can also help you keep the bathroom breaks to a minimum and prevent you from speeding. If you stay on schedule, that's less gas to burn trying to catch up to your timeline.

4. Pack Lightly 

I'm the world's worst over packer. I always bring more than I need and bring things I will probably never wear because I'm paranoid about variables when traveling. It may have come from growing up in Chicago where it could be hot and sunny one day and turn freezing in a few hours. The thing about packing too much means your car is heavier and with a heavier car your vehicle is less efficient fuel-wise. Do research on the weather beforehand. Pack accordingly by making a list where you write down how many days and nights you will be staying in a certain location. Then, make a list of any special adventures you might have and see if any wardrobe choices overlap.  However much stuff you bring, remember that you will probably have more when you come back and it will all have to be packed and put away at some point.

5. Find Free Experiences

Depending on where you are going, some museums and National Parks are free or discounted for families. In many cases, you can buy year long passes or buy memberships to your home museums which may have reciprocity with other museums in the cities you are visiting. For example, we bought a year long membership to our home city's science museum and got into Chicago's museum for a discounted rate.  Going to a zoo? They often have reciprocity with other zoos and you may get in for free or at a discounted rate.

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