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5 Mistakes That Will Bust Your Road Trip Budget

By Daniel Bortz
June 10, 2019
Woman leaning out of car peace sign
Angkana Kittayachaweng/Dreamstime
Drive down the cost of your vacation by avoiding these blunders.

Planning a road trip this summer? Expect some company on the expressway. Even amid rising gas prices, Americans are packing up their cars for a vacation. According to a recent AAA survey, 64 percent of Americans traveling this summer are planning a road trip, and it's the most popular option for family vacations. But to stretch your travel dollars while you’re on the road, you’ll want to avoid these five common mistakes.

1. Paying Top Dollar for Gas

Start by downloading GasBuddy on your smartphone. Using real-time fuel price information reported other users, the mobile app (available on Android and iPhone) can direct you to the cheapest gas stations along your route. Another way to conserve fuel is by packing your car lighter, so unload excess weight before you hit the road. Also, studies show using cruise control on highways can maximize fuel efficiency.

Driving a car that gets poor gas mileage? It might make financial sense to rent a fuel-efficient vehicle for your trip. Also, paying with a gas-rewards credit card will put money back in your pocket each time you fill up. The Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express is a favorite from credit card comparison website NerdWallet; the card lets you earn 3 percent cash back on U.S. gas station purchases year round.

2. Overspending on Lodging

Many hotels and Airbnb rentals raise their rates during the summer, but you can save big on lodging by doing a little careful planning.

Want to stay at a hotel? Call the concierge to find out what the rate is—sometimes the over-the-phone price is cheaper than the online price. Another option: use a bidding site like Priceline where hotels compete for your business. And make sure you avoid paying hidden hotel fees. (These days some places are even charging a fee to use the in-room coffee maker!) If you’re comfortable waiting until the day of to book a room, use HotelTonight, a mobile app (available on Android and iPhone) that offers same-day bookings of up to 70 percent off at luxury hotels.

Shopping for an Airbnb? Try haggling with the owner for a lower rate. You’ll have more leverage if you’re requesting a multi-night stay.

Looking to pitch a tent? Find a free campsite near your destination using the iOverlander mobile app (available on Android and iPhone). One caveat: some outdoor parks require a camping permit, but these generally cost only $5 to $20 per night.

3. Missing Out on Free Entertainment

Summer is peak season for free outdoor concerts, festivals, art shows, sporting events, and other community gatherings. You can find things to do along your route by visiting Festivals.com, MacaroniKid.com, and your destination city’s tourism website. Nearify, a free mobile app (available on Android and iPhone) that compiles happenings in hundreds of cities, is another tool for discovering cool events near your location. Also, local newspapers, magazines, and alternative weeklies typically have events calendars.

A number of cities offer free walking tours. You find these on Google and FreeToursByFoot.com.

4. Eating Out Every Meal

Reality check: Dining out costs money. A lot of money. But you don’t have to eat out every meal when you’re on the road. Plan ahead by stashing some food in a cooler, like deli sandwiches for lunches. Non-perishable snacks are also good to have on hand. Pro tip: Pack nuts, potato chips, crackers, and other foods that won’t melt in a hot car.

Of course, some meals are worth the splurge, like that four-star restaurant overlooking the ocean. But when you do eat out, always check for deals and coupons on Groupon, LivingSocial, and Yelp Deals. Traveling with kids? Find a restaurant where children eat for free.

5. Road Tripping to Big Cities

Put simply, some road-trip destinations are less expensive than others. Big cities tend to have pricier lodging and restaurants; plus, they’re crowded. To trim expenses, travel to towns where your dollar will go further.

A road trip can also be an opportunity for you to check out locations in your corner of the country. Staying within your state, as opposed to taking a long road trip, can also help reduce gas costs—and keep the kids from going stir-crazy in the car.

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Road TripsBudget Travel Lists

5 Perfect U.S. Road Trips

Fire up your GPS and start your engines! Every corner of the U.S. delivers amazing road trip opportunities, from parkland to scenic byways to vibrant towns and cities along the way. Here, we’ve rounded up five of our favorite epic drives from sea to shining sea. Your only remaining challenge is to pick your favorite trip and hit the road. BEST OF THE WEST: CALIFORNIA’S HIGHWAY 1 (Jonas Weinitschke/Dreamstime) Pick any stretch of Highway 1 along the California coast and you’ll be treated to epic views and great stops along the way. But perhaps the most iconic portion of the route is the drive between the San Francisco Bay Area and San Simeon. While the drive can be accomplished in just a few hours, we recommend you plan affordable stops along the way: A motel stay in Santa Cruz, at the top of Monterey puts you walking distance to the beautiful beach and fun-for-the-entire-family boardwalk. A day or two in the city of Monterey gives you time to explore the coastal walking trail with its jaw-dropping views of the gorgeous blue waters of the bay and playful sea otters, a visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and several world-class meals of fresh crab, sourdough bread, and other California favorites. Continue down Highway 1 for the star attraction, the winding drive along the cliffs of Big Sur, towering over the Pacific, and stop at Pfeiffer State Beach or a walk in the mountains just to the east of the highway. Your Highway 1 road trip can end at San Simeon, home to the incredible estate built by William Randolph Hearst with its truly amazing art collection and grounds. Or keep driving south for the delights of coastal communities such as San Luis Obispo, Morro Bay, and the renowned beaches and cities of Southern California! ROAD TRIP TIP: Before leaving home, make sure you have the appropriate auto insurance policy for your vehicle and needs. A visit to Geico.com can help you understand your options and potential savings. SOUTHERN CHARM: BLUE RIDGE PARKWAY You don’t have to choose between a big-city culture and the natural beauty of a national park. The Blue Ridge Parkway allows road trippers to enjoy Washington, D.C., with its free museums, historical sites, and cultural offerings, then head to Virginia’s Skyline Drive along the spine of the Blue Ridge Mountains, which turns into the Blue Ridge Parkway, one of FDR’s New Deal projects, linking Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park with Great Smoky Mountains National Park, in North Carolina and Tennessee. The parkway’s hairpin turns and epic tunnels will delight every family member, and a manageable, affordable national park experience is unforgettable, with ranger-led walks and talks, serene hiking trails, and the opportunity to spot an array of wildlife, including black bears, from a safe distance. More adventurous travelers may want to try rock climbing and whitewater rafting (with guidance from a local outfitter). Cool towns such as Asheville, NC, deliver tasty Southern cuisine, and you can balance the great outdoors experience of Great Smoky Mountains National Park with fun family-friendly activities in Gatlinburg, TN. While camping is always the most affordable way to visit a national park, reasonable lodging is available a short drive from both Shenandoah and Great Smoky Mountains. ROAD TRIP TIP: Get your car inspected before embarking on your drive. Proper tire pressure and engine tune-up can save you money on gas mileage, and having up-to-date safety and security devices may even reduce your auto insurance rates. MIDWEST SPLENDOR: DOOR COUNTY, WISCONSIN Can you keep a secret? Door County’s Coastal Byway, a Wisconsin Scenic Byway, delivers an amazing, lesser-known Midwestern vacation experience that keeps families coming back year after year. Stretching over 66 miles around the Door Peninsula (nicknamed the “Cape Cod of the Midwest”), this scenic byway and the stops along the way add up to a relaxing and delicious getaway. Situated between Lake Michigan and Green Bay, the Door Peninsula can be explored in a weekend, or you can stretch out your experience (which we heartily recommend) over several days with stays in the region’s beautiful towns. Ephraim, on the shores of Eagle Harbor, boasts beaches and harbor views you may associate only with New England, and a stop at Wilson’s for ice cream is a must. Peninsula State Park is one of those “hidden gems” just waiting to be discovered, with acres of forest, shoreline, and camping facilities. You’ll find great food in the town of Sister Bay, and some pleasant opportunities for quiet family time on the eastern side of the peninsula in Bailey’s Harbor and Jacksonsport. ROAD TRIP TIP: Pack a cooler with fruits and veggies, whole grains, grab-and-go protein like cheese sticks, and plenty of water (when visiting a wilder space such as a national park, a gallon of water per passenger per day is recommended). SOUTHWESTERN PARKS: UTAH’S ‘MIGHTY FIVE’ (Ralf Broskvar/Dreamstime) Did you know that Utah packs five incredible national parks into one state? Whether you hit two, three, four, or all of the “Mighty Five” (Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon, Zion, Arches, and Canyonlands), a scenic drive into Utah’s wild spaces is perhaps the ultimate road trip experience. While your GPS may recommend major highways along the way, give yourself permission to explore Scenic Byways such as State Route 12, the 120-mile drive from Capitol Reef to Bryce Canyon, and return home with brag-worthy photographs you can’t snap on the Interstate. Once you enter one of Utah’s national parks, hiking will likely be the “main event,” and each park deserves at least a day or two, whether you take ranger-led walks or strike out on your own. Consider trying something new, like a guided horseback tour in Bryce Canyon, and remember that Bryce and Zion both offer exceptional public transportation to get you from site to site. Camping is an affordable way to bunk down in Utah’s parks, but be sure to reserve your spot several months in advance, especially if you’ll be visiting during the summer high season. ROAD TRIP TIP: Don’t count on GPS as your only source of driving directions, especially if you’re visiting a national park or other wild space. Pick up printed maps that cover your road trip and plan out each day’s driving in advance using both GPS and your map - you’ll thank us when your smartphone suddenly says, “No Service.” ULTIMATE NEW ENGLAND: VERMONT & WESTERN MASSACHUSETTS The Green Mountains of Vermont and the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts deliver one of the Northeast’s finest driving experiences, easily reachable from New York, Boston, and other cities. Start in Bennington, VT, where you’ll soon discover that a New England road trip can combine world-class art and culture with natural beauty right outside your car window. The Bennington Museum offers a permanent art collection plus exhibits devoted to contemporary work, and the Grandma Moses gallery lets visitors not only enjoy the work of the iconic American folk artist but also to recognize the nearby Green Mountains as the backdrop of many of her most iconic paintings. Outside Bennington there are ample opportunities for canoeing, hiking, and chowing down on comfort food (and, yes, they serve classic New England clam chowder even as far inland as Vermont). Head to Williamstown, MA, for another incredible art collection, the Clark, and a truly charming small town experience with a vibrant downtown, great shopping, and more. Then it’s off to North Adams, MA, for the Norman Rockwell Museum and the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art and the endless opportunities for exploring the nearby Berkshire Mountains. You can keep busy in western Massachusetts for days, and it’s also a relatively short drive to the beaches of Gloucester, the New Hampshire seacoast, and even the stretch of Maine near the New Hampshire border, but that’s a road trip for another day! ROAD TRIP TIP: No matter what time of year you’re taking your road trip, there are a few packing essentials: Sunscreen (yes, even in winter), sun-protective clothing, plenty of drinking water, layers of clothing (T-shirts, sweatshirts, jackets), and comfortable walking or hiking shoes.

Road Trips

Affordable Summer Road Trips: One-Tank Escapes From 9 Cities

Road trip season is here, and there's no better way to kick off summer than hopping in the car and exploring destinations that are an easy, fun drive away. Here are nine destinations that will pay off big dividends on the less-than-two-hour investment—and one tank of gas—it takes to get there. 1. FROM CHICAGO: INDIANA DUNES, IN The Indiana Dunes sit along a 15 mile stretch of Lake Michigan’s southern shore. It’s only about 35 miles down I-90 from Chicago International Airport, but you’d be forgiven if you thought you were whisked away to the Sahara. Even the pine forests around the dunes sit on sand. Then, of course, the sprawling, shimmering lake will remind you that you are absolutely not in the desert. This destination draws birders in the spring, kayakers and other water sport enthusiasts in the summer, and anglers in the fall. There’s plenty for everyone else to enjoy throughout the 15,000-acre site as well, like tranquil forests, scenic prairies and marshes, a visitor center with a bookstore and junior ranger guides for kids, and 50 miles of trails—many of them quite rugged. And no need to rush back to Chicago at the end of the day. The surrounding area has eateries ranging from a sushi stop to laid-back pubs to a steakhouse, not to mention restaurants focused on seasonal farm-to-table menus. 2. FROM BOSTON: CONCORD, NH About 75 miles north of Boston, a straight shot up I-93, New Hampshire’s state capital offers more than just a hearty helping of outdoor options, like the wooded hiking trails at Audubon McLane Center, and New England history (see: the Pierce Manse, a museum in what was once the home of Franklin Pierce, the 14th president, and the majestic gold-domed state house, which was built in 1819). Fueled in part by urban types relocating here in search of a slower-paced life, a burgeoning dining scene has been taking shape alongside the longstanding institutions. Newell Post, for instance, is a popular breakfast/lunch stop that's been serving familiar dishes with a regional accent since it opened in 2012, and Revival, a locally minded eatery that opened in 2017, has been drawing crowds with its updates on classic New England fare. Concord also has a bigger music scene than most towns its size, with cafes and small venues hosting local indie performances while the Capitol Center for the Arts sees bigger acts. 3. FROM NEW YORK CITY: TARRYTOWN, NY For most travelers, New York City is the final destination, not a pass-through point, but whether you’re visiting the east coast or have lived in one of the five boroughs your whole life, it’s worth packing your bags for a trip to Tarrytown. This veritable country escape is a 30-minute drive from Midtown, just off the New York State Thruway (I-87) at the eastern landing of the Tappan Zee Bridge, or a 38-minute ride on MTA’s Metro-North Railroad, which leaves frequently from Grand Central. Quaint but lively, Tarrytown is a throwback to village life. There are pretty green spaces, a charming Main Street, and picturesque brick buildings that play host to restaurants, ice cream shops, antique stores, and cute boutiques, not to mention the grand, historic Tarrytown Music Hall where you can catch a broad range of local and national acts. If history piques your interest, take note that the town was a thruway on the Underground Railway, a hometown of Washington Irving, and a retreat for the Rockefellers, who built a family estate here in 1913. It’s a terrific place to catch your breath after a few days in the city. 4. FROM TORONTO: PRINCE EDWARD COUNTY (Alisonh29/Dreamstime) Prince Edward County is to Toronto what the Hudson Valley is to New York City, which is to say a super-hip urban escape with a growing number of gorgeous boutique hotels and dynamite creative restaurants, food trucks, and farmers’ markets. That should come as no surprise, given the regions abundant organic farms. With its rural landscape and natural attraction, PEC, about two and a half hours from both Ottawa and Toronto, is a refuge for creative types who expanded the area’s artistic footprint with their shops and galleries. And about those natural attractions: Sandbanks, one of the largest beaches in Ontario, offers swimming, fishing, hiking, sailing, and camping, while the pilgrimage-worth Lake on the Mountain, a provincial park (the Canadian equivalent of a state park), delivers a mind-bending sight, with the freshwater lake stretching out onto a cliff over a bay. And what’s more, it’s a terrific wine region, and the sheer number of vineyards make it a destination in its own right. 5. FROM SEATTLE: VASHON ISLAND, WA When you hear “American island escape,” it’s easy to think of Hawaii or North Carolina’s Outer Banks. The Pacific Northwest, though, is dotted with enchanting little islands—many of which are easy to get to and easy to fall for. The 37-square-miles Vashon Island, the largest in the Puget Sound, is about a 90-minute ferry ride from Fauntleroy Terminal in West Seattle, and the destination (population 10,000) is nothing short of a rural old-world paradise. Thanks to its backwoods roads, stretches of farmland, and protected waters of Quartermaster Harbor, the island is best explored by bike or kayak, both of which you can rent. Many of the small towns along the highway can be loosely described as artist colonies with a hippie vibe. Galleries, cafes, and an array of restaurants proliferate, plus there are seasonal performances, like outdoor concerts and Shakespeare in the Park, and the Vashon Center for the Arts (vashoncenterforthearts.org), a regal performance space and gallery that came with a $20 million price tag when it opened in 2016. Today it’s home to the Vashon Opera, a decade-old company, and host to a variety of local and national acts. With that many options, you’ll likely need more than a weekend. 6. FROM AUSTIN: GEORGETOWN, TX A mere 30 miles north of Austin, Georgetown was once a sleepy bedroom community, but lately it's come into its own, largely because real estate prices and lack of availability have pushed artists, musicians, and other creative types out of what some refer to as the music capital of the world. In the past few years, Georgetown has emerged as a portrait of modern America against a historic backdrop. It was once a stronghold of Western life along the Chisholm Trail, and the town square, a lively gathering place, is also a historic site to behold, with gorgeously preserved Victorian-era buildings. Dining options range from high-end bistros to cheery, creative pizza shops, like 600 Degrees Pizzeria. But what really makes this small town a culinary destination is its wineries, including the Georgetown Winery right in the middle of the town square. For those looking to do extensive vineyard visits, take note: The town is 90 minutes from Hill Country, a thriving wine region that's quite vast, as to be expected in Texas. 7. FROM DENVER: CHEYENNE, WY When it comes to short trips from Denver, we’re casting our vote for crossing state lines and checking out Cheyenne, despite Colorado's many adorable mountain towns. The Wyoming state capital is about 100 miles from Denver International Airport, and to make things easy, there’s a shuttle from the terminal to downtown Cheyenne (greenrideco.com). The city's biggest claim to fame is the annual Cheyenne Frontier Days, a festive pageant-like salute to rodeo and all things Western, but there are plenty of ways to celebrate America's vintage Western spirit here year-round. For starters: check out the Cheyenne Frontier Days Old West Museum, the Cowgirl Museum of the West, and more. It's an easy city to explore on foot: The Victorian-style downtown includes a delightful mix of country-chic outfitters, hip boutiques, bookstores, and vintage shops, plus a variety of restaurants, many of which offer noteworthy craft beer selections. 8. FROM LOS ANGELES: PASADENA, CA Los Angeles may have the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, but its neighbor to the east has some sparkle of its own. A little more than ten miles from downtown L.A. via CA-110, Pasadena boasts world-class arts institutions, an array of delicious places to eat and drink, and a picturesque, walkable old-town area, all against a backdrop that looks like something out of a film set—and that’s because it might very well be one. Pasadena is an unsung hero of the movie-making scene, and it’s such a staple that there’s an entire walking tour devoted to filming locations around town. But it’s not all stardust and sequins. Stroll along Old Pasadena’s Colorado Boulevard, where you’ll find big-brand chains and indie boutiques alike; pop into the Norton Simon Museum (nortonsimon.org), where classic works by Picasso and Degas complement modern pieces like massive murals by California native Sam Francis; book a table at one of the city’s 500 restaurants (think green juice and avocado toast at Sage Vegan Bistro and blockbuster northern Italian fare at Union Restaurant); and catch a show or a game at the Rose Bowl before you head back to La-La Land. 9. FROM NASHVILLE: FRANKLIN, TN A 20-mile shot down I-65 from Nashville, Franklin (population 75,000) has serious music-world credentials—enough to hold its own against Music City. This powerhouse town has country and western in its blood: Stars like Wynonna Judd have been known to pop in for the famous open-mic night at Puckett’s Grocery, and country royalty like Alan Jackson and Keith Urban have owned property in the area. With a beautiful 16-block stretch of historically preserved buildings—an array of shops, galleries, and homes—plus a storybook-worthy Main Street, downtown Franklin is Americana incarnate. Main Street is anchored by the landmark Franklin Theatre, a performance and movie venue that's been lovingly restored to its original 1937 glory. Further afield, the quaint hamlet of Leiper’s Fork is a hip one-stop shop for anyone seeking old-school Southern soul. You’ll find it here in antique shops and galleries, eateries dishing out classic regional fare, distilleries producing small-batch whiskies, and local institutions like Finds in the Fork, a paradise for vinyl collectors. Weather permitting, settle in for an alfresco flick at the Leipers Fork Lawnchair Theater. It’s country living at its finest.For travel inspiration, know-how, deals, and more, sign up for Budget Travel's free e-newsletter.

Road Trips

Ultimate Arkansas Road Trip

Road trip season is on its way, and we can’t think of a better way to enjoy the open road than to head to Arkansas, within driving distance from much of America’s heartland and boasting endless opportunities to savor American history, culture, food, and natural wonders. Here, some of the highlights of the ultimate road trip from the capital, Little Rock, to the wild beauty of the Ozark Mountains. Culture & Food in Little Rock Little Rock is one of America’s affordable gems, a bustling metropolis packed with natural beauty, culture, and great food. Hit the River Market District to sample classic southern comfort food, distinctive regional fare, and imaginative culinary fusion from local chefs—and you can get to the River Market District via METRO Streetcar. History buffs will want to spend some time getting to know the Clinton Presidential Center & Park, beautifully designed with an eye toward limiting environmental impact. Many visitors to Little Rock are surprised to find nature at every turn, and the Central Arkansas Nature Center and Clinton Presidential Park Wetlands allow for wildlife viewing and quiet moments right in the middle of town. Every well-traveled kid should see the Museum of Discovery with its hands-on learning activities for all ages. The Delights of Eureka Springs Visitors to Arkansas will savor a stop in Eureka Springs, a town truly like no other. Here, classic Victorian homes are situated along winding mountainside streets; downtown is on the National Register of Historic Places and boasts award-winning restaurants and exceptional shopping featuring unique, local items at boutiques, art galleries and studios, and craft shops. (Public art is also on display all around town, spotlighting the community’s commitment to creativity.) But Eureka Springs’s charms don’t end in town—situated in the heart of the Ozarks, there are ample opportunities for fishing, hiking, mountain biking, and much more. And those looking for a relaxing spa experience will find a number of local hotels that offer access to soothing springs. History & Art in Bentonville Here in the foothills of the Ozarks, the town of Bentonville may be best known as the headquarters of Walmart (you can even visit the original Walmart 5&10 from 1950), but the relatively small community packs much more into a tidy package. Don’t miss the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, covering five centuries of American art from colonial days to the present. Art fans will want to continue exploring Bentonville at 21c Museum and Hotel, which combines more than 12,000 square feet of art galleries with an adjacent 100+ room boutique hotel. Kids of all ages will relish an afternoon at Scott Family Amazeum, where you’ll never hear the words “don’t touch”—it’s all about playing and learning. And you mustn’t depart Bentonville without immersing yourself in one of the south’s most significant collections of Native American artifacts at the Museum of Native American History. Folk Music & Crafts in the Ozarks We love that music can be heard just about everywhere you go in Mountain View. Here, locals join visiting musicians to entertain crowds—and one another—with traditional mountain music in the town square during the warm months (which, here in Mountain View, go from mid-April through late November). Founded in the 1870s, Mountain View has become a major center of traditional Ozark culture and music. The epicenter of folk music and crafts here is the Ozark Folk Center, where you’ll experience demonstrations of a range of crafts such as pottery-making and blacksmithing, not to mention traditional music—you can get lessons on a classic mountain instrument such as the autoharp or dulcimer, and even learn to dance a jig. Easy Outdoor Adventures in St. Francis National Forest Quick: Where’s the only National Forest that includes Mississippi River shoreline? It’s Arkansas’s own St. Francis National Forest, on the east central region of the state. Covering more than 20,000 acres, the hardwood forest is a mecca for wildlife observers. Here, the woods are teeming with turkey, rabbit, whitetail deer, and a plethora of waterfowl. Abundant game fishing includes striped and largemouth bass and, of course, catfish. St. Francis National Forest is a place to enjoy low-impact, low-stress outdoor adventures. Bear Creek Lake offers opportunities for swimming, boating, and camping. More adventurous visitors may enjoy four-season pursuits in the St. Francis and Ozark National Forests, where cycling, canoeing, horseback riding, and even ATV rides are popular. The Ozark and St. Francis National Forests offer such an abundance of natural beauty, in fact, that they are crossed by six U.S. Scenic Byways. Don’t Miss These Natural Wonders There’s a reason that Arkansas is nicknamed The Natural State. Here, an array of parks, forests, mountains, and more attract road trippers from across the U.S. Some don’t-miss natural highlights include lakes and rivers situated in more than 20 state parks. As mentioned above, the Ozark and St. Francis National Forests boast a number of lakes just waiting for vacationers. Natural springs abound in Hot Springs, Eureka Springs, and other “hotspots.” And be sure to have your camera or smartphone at the ready for the Instagrammable mountain ranges, waterfalls, natural bridges, flowers, and wildlife you’ll encounter along the route of your ultimate road trip! To learn more and plan your road trip, visit arkansas.com.

Road TripsTravel Tips

Summer Road Trip Forecast & Tips

If you’re planning to take a family vacation in 2019, you’re in good company: A recent AAA survey predicts that nearly 100 million Americans (that’s about 4 in 10 adults) are planning to do the same. With that data in mind, AAA shared some stats, know-how, and trip inspiration that every Budget Traveler should know. By the Numbers According to AAA’s survey, two-thirds of family travelers will take a summer getaway, with more than half of them planning to make that getaway a road trip. One factor that’s inspiring travelers to plan road trips and scenic drives is the lower cost of gas, down about one quarter compared with last year. Gas prices are expected to rise, but remain lower this summer than last. AAA reports that a third of Americans surveyed said they would add another road trip to their summer plans if gas prices stay down, Planning Your Route “To make the most of their vacations, AAA recommends families plan and research as far ahead as possible to avoid missing out on popular activities and fun,” says Stacey Barber, executive director, AAA Travel Information & Content. Budget Travel has been covering great American road trips for more than 20 years, and offers a wealth of itineraries and advice. It turns out, AAA’s top routes for summer travel (according to AAA member road trip routing data) align very much with some of Budget Travel’s all-time favorite U.S. road trips, including the National Parks of the Southwest, the Pacific Coast Highway, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and the mountains of New England. READ: 5 Perfect U.S. Road Trips Tips for a Successful Family Road Trip We also echo AAA’s common-sense road trip tips, which you can start implementing as early as, well, right now, to ensure a smooth summer excursion: Pack smart. Bring books, games, and music, information on your destination, and healthy snack. Stay safe. Stop every 100 miles, or every two hours, to help stay alert. Make sure all passengers are safely wearing seatbelts or sitting in child safety seats. Be patient. Be prepared to hit traffic, and reduce your chance of delays by hitting the road earlier or later than most drivers, especially on holiday weekends. Map out your route. Sure, GPS is awesome, but it’s always best to map out your route in advance, including reliable lodging, restaurants, and gas stations, especially if you’re traveling a relatively remote area where you may lose cellular service for a time. Get your car ready. Have your car inspected and tuned up, carry a flashlight, extra batteries, flares or reflective triangle, jumper cables, a first-aid kit, and plenty of water.

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