Tips to Save Time and Money on the Road

With the return of warm weather comes the return of time spent outdoors. After a winter spent huddled up inside avoiding the cold, the arrival of spring is often welcomed with open arms.

The welcome mat for spring often includes a weekend getaway with the family to soak up some spring rays. For those about to embark on a springtime road trip, consider the following money saving tips to ensure your trip is as inexpensive as it is enjoyable.

* Bring something for the kids to do in the car. While parents might enjoy hitting the open road and pushing the pedal to the metal, kids often get bored the longer a trip is, and that can lead to frequent and costly pitstops to help quell that boredom. Parents can prepare for that inevitable boredom and avoid such stopovers by bringing some entertainment along for the kids. Portable DVD players are relatively inexpensive and can keep kids occupied on long trips. For those renting a vehicle for their trip, inquire at the rental agency as to the availability of vehicles with built-in DVD players.

Parents can also employ more traditional road trip fare by playing some favorite games from yesteryear. These games include the License Plate Game, I Spy or 20 Questions to make a trip more fun for adults and children alike.

* Obey the speed limit. In addition to avoiding costly speeding tickets, obeying the speeding limit can also save you money by increasing fuel efficiency. According FuelEconomy.gov, each 5 miles per hour (mph) over 60 mph is akin to paying an additional $.0.20 per gallon for gas. What's more, aggressive driving can lower gas mileage by as much as 33 percent.

When the route for a given trip includes long stretches of driving on the same highway, employ the cruise control option provided by your vehicle. This will ensure your vehicle remains at a safe and steady speed while improving fuel efficiency.

* Visit family or friends en route to your destination. Those heading out on an extended weekend getaway can save money on hotels or meals by calling family and friends and either staying overnight or simply visiting for a meal. Grandma and Grandpa would no doubt appreciate a visit and might even offer to let you stay the night and save the expense of a costly hotel.

* Don't get lost. While no one plans on getting lost, it does happen, even in the current day and age when GPS systems and cell phones enable drivers to easily access the Internet and get directions. And getting lost can prove costly if you end up driving around looking for the right way to go.

If you don't have a GPS system, print out directions and be sure to bring them along for the trip. Also, when printing out directions ahead of time, look for alternate routes that might save time and, as a result, money. Visit different Web sites to see if one offers substantially shorter routes than another. The disparity between recommended driving routes might be greater than you think.

* Pre-pack lunches and snacks. Instead of stopping along the way for lunch, pre-pack lunches. This can help save money and also allows parents to plan healthier meals, as many roadside restaurants are fast food joints that kids might love but parents certainly don't. When packing lunches, let the kids pack a few items for themselves. This will make them enjoy the meals more and help them forget about the meals they're not getting from their favorite fast food restaurants.

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