Are you planning a long road trip anytime soon? The weather is warming up, we are learning that part of the joys of being a large family is driving (although we will discuss tips to cut costs on flying in a future post), and driving will let you take in the sights, smells, and sounds of this beautiful creation! We wanted to start a series on how to travel thriftily! And no, we’re not referring to a family that sticks out thumbs together is a family that hitchhikes together. 🙂
One of the first considerations you will need to make is how to prepare your vehicle for the trip. Whether your vehicle is a year old or ten years old, you need to make sure it is ready for the miles you’re preparing to embark on.
First, you will need to consider the type of weather will you be experiencing. Are you going to need to prepare your vehicle for blizzard-like conditions or will you be praying for solace from the burning sun? At least starting here will help you realize some of the focus you will need – Do you need snow tires or chains? Will you need to take extra coolant in case of overheating? Will you need blankets for an emergency or plenty of water to make it through Death Valley?
Second, make sure your car is tuned up to provide you the highest fuel-efficiency and give you a greater sense of security while you are on the road. Lets face it, being thrifty is not the only reason to do what we do. We must make wise choices, consider safety as a top priority in all our choices, and be good stewards of the resources that we have been blessed with.
- Oil change – Ok, I’m not a mechanic; I’m just a guy that has some strong personal opinions about the health of my vehicles. But I am a strong believer in maintaining your vehicle at the suggested miles to keep it running smoother, more efficiently, and to keep us (or even worse Thrifty Cas and the kids) from being stuck at the side of the road. Also, when I speak of oil changes, I’m also talking the full service in which all my fluids, tires, and filters are checked to make sure the vehicle is ready for the hours of driving ahead of you! Now, some of you may be even more thrifty than us as you might change your own oil! However, if you’re more of my style, watch for amazing deals in local shops! Jiffy Lube offers coupon books inside the store for $3 which has over $100 in coupons. If you’re in a pinch, Walmart will often have a decent every-day low price as well.
- Tires at right inflation with enough tread – This may seem odd, but keeping your tires at the right inflation will help you save about 3.3 percent in your miles per gallon (mpg) according to the Department of Energy (DOE). With the price of gas, and on a long trip, saving 3.3 percent on the total cost of your gas is a really good way to be thrifty! This is due to reducing the resistance of your tires against the road while you are driving. However, don’t over-inflate your tires to save even a few more pennies 🙂 as that will risk a shorter life to your tires and reduce your stopping advantages in cases where you need to stop quickly. Finally, making sure your tires have enough tread will give you that extra sense of protection whether you’re on snow, ice, or driving down the freeway at 80 mph (umm, err, 75 mph).
- Filters – The debate continues on whether a dirty air filter will help save you any money on gasoline, but it will make your car more efficient especially in accelerating. They are easy to change yourself (well, easy enough – our minivan requires a bit of patience as its a tight squeeze to replace the filter) and having that extra oomph in acceleration may give you just enough acceleration to pass that extra-long trailer up the 6% grade.
- Washing your car??? – Ok, I threw this one in to see if you were paying attention. According to a report at Edmunds.com however, one of the top 10 tips for improving your fuel economy (up to 7 percent) is washing your car as it improves the aerodynamics. I just don’t know if I buy it. Leave me a comment if you’ve heard this before or have had any experience with this.
Third, although we never want to encounter problems we know we must be prepared. Check for sales on our website as we will try to keep you appraised of when we see killer sales in regards to building your own road-site kit. Putting together your own kit will be the cheapest option especially when you can find them for great deals!
- Flashlight – Anyone else ever try to use your cellphone because you forgot to pack a flashlight? Maybe I’m just unique.
- A few miscelleneous tools – Be careful to not pack more than you might need as extra weight will reduce your mpg.
- Jumper cables – If you simply need a jump for a dead battery, having your own cables will help save you some grief or worse, money, if you need to pay someone to jump it for you.
- Work gloves/rags – Grease, dirt, grime, and clean clothes. Need I say more??
- Chains (brrr) – If you’re facing some potentially dangerous driving conditions, having a set of chains for your vehicle is a huge plus! We live up in the Northwest where some stretches of road actually are illegal to drive on unless you have chains during certain times of the year. I’ve stupidly driven on icy roads at too fast of a speed before; I don’t want to do that with my wife or four kids. Watch the thrifty ads in the springtime and you might find someone trying to get rid of their chains and get a good deal as well.
- Spare tire – A couple of years ago I was talking to a tow truck driver and he mentioned that very often people will try to change a flat tire only to find their spare to be unusable. As this may not be on the top of your list to prepare before a trip, make sure you add it. Having a good spare will save you money on not having to call a tow truck and will ultimately keep you from spending too much time waiting for the tow truck to arrive.
- Tire gauge – This will come in very useful to help you keep your tires adjusted for the most efficient driving conditions (remember, to help you save $$).
- AAA (or similar service) – We swear by our AAA Road Service. I have appreciated having a service that I pay relatively so little for ($120 / year) for the additional security of knowing that if ever a problem were to arise we could call them to be towed to the nearest town. Not only will one tow typically save you money, but depending on your plan you can be towed up to four times a year, it will also provide you lockout and they will bring you fuel as well. In addition, our service is great as AAA will tow any vehicle that one of my family members are riding in – no matter who owns it! Finally, we use our AAA to get even more amazing deals on hotels wherever we go; more on this advantage later!!
Finally, though the following tips are not specifically related to preparing your vehicle for the trip, the following tips do help you decide what preparations you might need to make.
- Google maps! – Ok, I’m a Google fan. I admit it! But I truly love how you can map your route, drag your route to compare different driving scenarios, and check out actual road images so you can know what to expect before going (turn at the red barn starts to make a bit more sense even before you get in the car).
- Plan ahead your gas stops – This is a huge tip to stay thrifty while you travel. Make sure that you follow at least two simple rules when trying to gas up on the trip. The price of gas is high enough! Saving some money in just this one tip will help bring the cost of traveling down!
- Gas up in more populated areas! Admit it, you’ve had to buy gas for your vehicle in the middle of nowhere! Do you remember kicking yourself because the cost of gas in the last town was approximately $0.20 cheaper (OR MORE) per gallon?!?! Rural areas have less competition and know they can charge more – they know you’re not going to waste your time nor will you have enough gas to drive to a location where you could have purchased it cheaper.
- Drive into town to save $$ on gas. This past weekend we were on our way home from some good friends’ and noticed a $0.20/gallon price difference between the price at the exit of the interstate and the price just a few blocks into town (the cheaper gasoline was even a higher quality gas as well!).
Please remember, these tips come from our experiences. We would love to hear more about ways that you save money when you prepare your vehicle for a trip!!
Get ready for that next trip!!
Don’t miss our full four-part series on taking a road trip – thrifty style of course!
- Part I: Prepare Your Vehicle
- Part II: The Actual Ride
- Part III: How To Sleep Financially Sound – Hotel, Motel, Resorts
- Part IV: Staying At Timeshare Resorts and Condos