How to Save on a Road Trip

Easy tips to keep in mind for your next vacation.

1

Pick Lodging That Does Double Duty

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Photo by John Lund/Getty Images

“Look for accommodations that are destinations,” says Sarah Waffle Gavin, a travel expert at Expedia. “The more time your kids spend in the pool, the less you’re spending on expensive activities.” Properties like Great Wolf Lodge—a chain with 14 locations in North America—cater to family sleep needs (think: tent-themed privacy partitions and bunk beds) and feature on-site water parks. And if your family does well in warm climates, you could save big this time of year. “The general rule in the summer is the hotter the destination, the hotter the deals are to stay there,” says Gavin. “Places like Las Vegas and Palm Springs are fantastic, and you can save as much as 50 percent by going when it isn’t their peak time.”

2

Put a Limit on Pit Stops

“Eating out for every meal is the hugest road trip no-no,” says Kara Williams, co-owner of The Vacation Gals lifestyle website. “Pack a cooler that you can refill with stuff like snacks, sandwich fixings, hummus, yogurt, bagels, and juice.” Speaking of pit stops, for the cheapest gas around, check out apps like Gas Guru and GasBuddy, which will scan the area and do a price comparison for you.

3

Don’t Assume You Have to Pay Retail

Coughing up full price at the ticket window might not be necessary. Your existing memberships at museums, zoos, and the like may have reciprocity in other cities, and many institutions offer free admission on certain days of the week. Research local chamber of commerce websites, Red Tricycle, and macaronikid.com for more info. “Families with a fourth grader can get into all U.S. national parks for free with the Every Kid in a Park pass,” says Shelly Rivoli, author of Travels with Baby and founder of FamilyTravel411.com. For more discounted fun, download the Groupon and LivingSocial apps for your destination, says Lissa Poirot, editor in chief of FamilyVacationCritic.com. Just confirm that your purchase can be used on your desired dates.