August 18 2008 by Amy Graff
Earlier this month, I talked about my family's Route 66 road trip on ABC's nationally syndicated TV show View from the Bay. You can watch the segment by clicking here.
For those visiting the site for the first time, here's a rundown of my five favorite posts from trip.
Also, here's a quick recap of our journey with some money-saving tips for family road trippers:
On June 29, my family embarked on a great adventure--driving Route 66 from Santa Monica to Chicago. We took 15 days to do the trip and we gave ourselves a budget of $250 a day--a total of $3,750.
So, did we meet our goal? Barely. Our final total was $3,709.52 (Darn, I should have ordered that chocolate pie in Tulsa!) We had some help. My parents met us in St. Louis for two days and picked up the restaurant bills, and a friend sent $40 for a bottle of wine in Chicago. But generally we pinched pennies.
Here's what we learned:
1) Leave the SUV at home. If you own more than one car, opt for the auto that gets the best gas mileage. It costs less and it's better for the environment. (If we survived 15 days in a sardine can, you can too!)
2) Lighten your load. Carrying 100 pounds in the trunk reduces a typical car's fuel efficiency by 1 to 2 percent. (My husband packed only one pair of shorts, one pair jeans, and a few shirts.) If you have cargo to haul, put it in the trunk instead of on a roof rack, which can decrease mileage by as much as 5 percent.
3) Inflate your tires. Under-inflated tires are a safety hazard and decrease fuel economy by as much as 2 percent per pound of pressure below the recommended level.
4) Drive gently. Excessive braking and accelerating reduces fuel economy, as does driving faster than highway speed limits. Teach your kids to read the speedometer; they'll enjoy making sure you stay under 70 mph.
5) Invest in a cooler. Fill it with healthy snacks such as dried fruit, crackers, salami, cheese, and yogurt. Also, pack a loaf of bread and jars of peanut butter and honey. (Tip: Sunflower seeds are a bad idea. My son threw these all over the car.)
6) Carry refillable water bottles. A family of four can easily spend $20 a day buying water in plastic bottles. We invested in eco-friendly Klean Kanteens, which don't leach chemicals, toxins, or funky flavors.
7) Split entrees. Unless you're eating at a hoity-toity place in the big city, restaurant entrees are typically humongous--and easily feed two hungry people.
8) Enjoy free entertainment. You can play I-Spy, 20 Questions, or Name that Tune without spending a penny. Also, borrow Books on Tape from your public library, and download free printable car bingo cards from www.aaa.com/roadtrip.
9) Go for hotel freebies. Bed down at places that offer extra value: free breakfast, Wi-Fi, and parking.
10) Dive into the hotel pool. Take a break from the amusement parks and shopping malls where you're bound to overspend. We stayed at Best Western hotels and nearly all of them had pools.
11) Take advantage of discounts. Your AAA card can save you money at hotels, restaurants, and attractions (aaa.com). You can pick up discounted amusement park tickets at Walmart (www.walmart.com) and Costco (www.costco.com). And if you're planning to visit several national parks, consider an annual pass ($80, www.nationalparks.org). Also, ask about hotel rewards programs.
12) Avoid big-name destinations. The Grand Canyon, Disneyland, Chicago--these popular spots will bust your budget. If money's tight, plan to visit these places at a later date when you have more money to spend.
13) Opt for cheap souvenirs. My son collected rocks along Route 66--most of them he just picked up off the ground. My daughter put together a great postcard collection.