Pack Up the Car: Tips For An Affordable Summer Road Trip

Road tripPlan on hitting the road this summer for a family road trip? There are several things to keep in mind when planning your route. First of all you might want to steer clear of the most expensive road trip destinations. According to a new study by WalletHub of 2015’s Best & Worst States for Summer Road Trips, New Jersey, Michigan, Rhode Island, Arkansas, and Oklahoma were the top worst places to take a road trip in terms of a range of concerns from average gas prices to the quality of roads to the number of attractions.? WalletHub compared the 50 U.S. states to identify the states that offer frugally minded road travelers the most fun for the least cost. The destinations that were the top 5 on the list of 10 as the best places to take a road trip were: Oregon, Nevada, Minnesota, Washington, and Ohio.

“We were surprised to see Ohio in the top list and South Dakota in the bottom. When analyzing the metrics, however, Ohio has the 7th highest number of scenic byways (28 in all) and some of the safest roads – only 10 percent of major roads have been deemed to be in poor condition. Some states have over 50 percent! Plus, it’s home to things like the Football Hall of Fame and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which most people are surprised to find out. South Dakota, although home to the magnificent Mount Rushmore, only has 5 scenic byways – so driving to that one attraction won’t be the most pleasant trip. It also has some of the highest rates of vehicle fatalities in the country,? notes WalletHub spokesperson Jill Gonzalez.

Among the survey’s interesting findings: Camping in Connecticut will cost you double than in Nevada; the price of a three-star hotel room in Hawaii is three times more expensive than in Arizona; the state of Massachusetts has three times more fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled than Montana; and California has ?a whopping eight times more car thefts per 100,000 residents than Vermont.

You won?t be alone on the road this summer. Some 85 percent of Americans are planning summer getaways, 90 percent of which will be by car, according to WalletHub.

There are ways to save–even if your find yourself in one of the ?worst? states, notes Gonzalez. “Every single state has beauty to take in, history to learn and attractions to explore. Some just have more than others. If you do find yourself road tripping to one of the “worst” states, seek out free online travel guides and make sure to find the hidden gems it has to offer. And of course, use apps like GasBuddy and Airbnb to keep travel and lodging costs at a minimum,” she suggests.

There are other things you can do to make your trip more affordable–and fun.

First, make a plan and map out your route. ?Pre-trip planning and sign-up for Living Social and Groupon for areas you are visiting. Often this gives us ideas of things to do that we may not think to do on our own at a fraction of the walk-up pricing. Usually each activity you will save 40-50% on total cost,? notes says Lori Malett, President of Hatch Staffing Services, who often takes family road trips.

Take provisions on the road with you. ?Pack a cooler in the car and avoid paying gas station prices for snacks and beverages. It is both convenient and cost effective with the ability to keep it healthy,? says Malett.

Find free fun. ?When making stops in various cities and towns along the way, have a list of free activities and sites. If you are aware of a few fun and interesting sites, you and your family can enjoy what each location has to offer in a low cost way,? offers David Hryck, personal finance expert, adviser and Partner at ReedSmith.

And for the nights you need a hotel, look for discounts before heading out. ?Priceline or use Airbnb for lodging accommodations. Both offer the best lodging at a fraction of the cost. I have saved as much as 70 percent on Priceline from the direct hotel advertised rate and have found the most unique accommodations and experiences for a budget at Airbnb,? adds Malett.