Tips to Save Time and Money on Your Summer Roadtrip

Posted on May 28, 2019

School’s out, and that means it’s time for everyone’s favorite summer activity: Road trips!

The idea of packing your car to the max and driving for eight hours with your partner and kids may immediately send you into a panic (especially if you have bad memories of your own family road trips), but it doesn’t have to! A little preparation and the right attitude can go a long way toward making your next family road trip a great memory for you and your kids.

Here are a few tips I’ve found useful for better family road trips:

Buy lots of books and art supplies

This is one of my new favorite road trip tips. During my most recent America’s Thrift Store shopping trip, I discovered bundles of kids’ books and art supplies in the Value Grab Bag section of the store. I grabbed two bundles of books (one for each of my boys), a bundle of art supplies that had colored pencils and crayons and a plastic pencil box to keep them contained. I also grabbed a couple of “How to draw” books — bugs and animals.

Noah and Spenser loved having new books to read on our recent road trip, they were able to swap when they were done, and when they got tired of reading they colored and drew. I spent less than $10, and it kept them occupied for an entire 3-hour road trip to visit family (and the entire way back).

Pack snacks (but make it more fun with mini snacks)

If you’ve been a parent for any length of time at all, this one’s a no-brainer. Gas station snacks are a fun treat on a road trip, but they also can get pricey fast.

But here’s a fun trick I saw recently: Instead of just tossing some applesauce and crackers in a bag, consider packing mini snacks. Grab a plastic container with a lot of small compartments (fishing lure holders are good for this) and put a different snack in each one (goldfish crackers, M&Ms, raisins, mini marshmallows, etc.). Then let your kids take turns picking out their snacks!

Put together an emergency road trip kit

If you’re a veteran family road-tripper, you know there’s lots of stuff that can happen on the road. While you can’t be prepared for everything, you can be well-stocked in case of spilled drinks in the car or scraped knees during a pitstop (this is in addition to whatever roadside emergency kit you likely already carry).

Put together a simple kit with things like wet wipes, Boogie Wipes (because three hours of whining about a runny nose will ruin anybody’s trip), Kleenex, napkins, bandages of various sizes, sunscreen, and basically anything else you can think of that you might need.

Find and plan fun places to stop

You’ve got kids. They have small bladders. You are going to need to stop.

So if you have to stop anyway, why not make it fun? Find quirky attractions that are on or near your route. If there’s a national monument or park a few miles out of the way, run by and snap a few pictures. Even if you just find a really awesome rest area (seriously, there are some good ones, with playgrounds), make each stop a little extra special, because they will help give your kids and you more happy memories of these trips and hopefully less whining and bickering in the backseat.

Don’t stress over your schedule

This goes along with the previous tip. Plan enough time into your trip that you don’t have to stress over every second and every mile. If you have a specific time you have to arrive (say, for a wedding), then plan twice as much time as you think you’ll need. If you don’t have a specific time, then do your best to stave off those feelings of FOMO about your final destination and enjoy the journey.

Written by Misty Matthews