How to Get the Fullest Benefit from your Road Trip Travel Dollars

Mom called herself a gypsy, because she liked to ‘go’. When Dad took off in their only car, she was always right there, purse in hand, ready to go with him, even if it was only to the hardware store or gas station! She planned a 2 week trip every year – a trip Dad referred to as an endurance test.

They weren’t rich, but they enjoyed seeing the country (and later the world). They knew how to milk each travel dollar for all it was worth.

Here are some of the ways to do so, some of the ways I milk each dollar on my vacations – no matter what my vacation budget is.


Dream about where you want to go and what you want to do.

While I don’t have a bucket list per se, I do have ideas about some of the things I’d like to do or see. A hot air balloon ride; a trip to Alaska; and an all inclusive beach vacation are a few of the ideas I have yet to execute.

Talk with others who have visited that area and done those things.

Perhaps I’ll take that Alaska trip this year. I’ve already corresponded with two close to me on what the must sees and dos are. I’m still looking for a dog sled ride offering though!

Find out what your dream area offers and think about which of those offerings will tempt you.

I love train rides. Alaska has two lines that offer great views on a hassle free ride. If you are on an all inclusive, find out what the resort offers, but also look around at what else is in the area outside of the resort – you may just find you want to go see or do something else instead of just sipping margaritas on the sand all day!


Dig into the details. How will you get there (and back)? What are the lodging choices? What activities are available? What will make your trip exceptional?

I search around the internet, use atlas information and check out travel books in the library and bookstore.

When we went to Yellowstone the first time, I found that Amtrak had a dome car ride through the Rockies ending up in Salt Lake City.  We went by train, rented a car to see the sights at Yellowstone and flew back home.


Pick a main theme for your road trip vacation and then choose the places, things and people which support making your theme come alive.

Pick your travel companions or decide if you will go alone.

Perhaps you always travel with your spouse, but what if they don’t enjoy trips? Give them a break and find someone new to enjoy the journey with you – perhaps a friend, a co-worker or another relative. Better yet, if you aren’t afraid, try travel alone to see if you like it.

Let the others coming on your trip have some say in what you select. As an airline employee (computer programmer), I earned perfect attendance passes – first class seats on a 747. I took the family to London for about a week. There were certain things that were must see, must do for me – such as touring Windsor palace and eating British food in a pub, but I had each of our son’s pick at least one thing they wanted to do. Because of their picks, we saw Madame Tussauds Chamber of Horrors wax museum and the biggest toy store in the world Hamley’s – both of which were great fun.

Anticipate some more

Now that the plan is in place, savor the coming trip every which way you can. When we went on a cruise with another couple – both of us celebrating our 25th wedding anniversaries, we planned a get together before the trip date to eat and share ideas on what to take.  We anticipated the fun we would have together.

Prepare to enjoy

Spend a bit extra to make sure you are comfortable enough to enjoy the trip. Does your spouse snore or roll around or steal the blankets or stay up late? Get a room with an extra bed so you can have some space to yourself.

Make arrangements to ensure that your travels are as snarl free as possible.

  • Plan your route to ensure enough travel time, connection time and to look for potential travel snarls or congestion.
  • Make sure you have a bed to call home each night. I always make reservations ahead of time – making sure that I can cancel without penalty if we have last minute plan changes.


All the prep work and packing is done. You are ready to pile in the car and hit the open road. Be sure to get enough sleep the night before. Double check your prep list to make sure you’ve hit every check box on it. Do a last minute home review to make sure that the timer is plugged in, the pets are away, the coffee pot is empty and unplugged and etc.

We’ve gone back home after driving for up to a half hour because neither of us can remember if we turned off the coffee – it is a standing joke in our family.

Be sure to have snacks and drinks with you and stop to stretch when needed be. You are on vacation – not the endurance trip my Dad used to talk about – enjoy the ride as well as the destination.

While you may get tense and have a few arguments (my family always did), your goal is to enjoy the ride. Try to remember that everyone is in a tight hot space and off their normal routine. Cut each other some slack and make sure that no one is over tired, over hungry or having to urgently care for a bodily routine!

Followup and remember

Half the fun of going is recounting the trip to each other and anyone else who will listen! Get those pictures organized. Make a scrap book or a movie. Give holiday gifts this year remembering your trip with those who went.

We took our Grandson to Colonial Williamsburg this year. The parents will be getting a movie, a Christmas ornament and they and our Grandson will receive a framed photo collage featuring him (and us) on the trip – so we can all remember the good times we had and the things we saw and did.

There are always ways to cut the cost of a trip, but getting the full value of each dollar spent involves more than just frugality.

What is your most valued vacation memory?


How to Get the Fullest Benefit from your Road Trip Travel Dollars — 8 Comments

  1. I love road trips and find it to be the best form of exploring nearby locations usually within 6 hour radius. I choose a destination and plot the course but I wait to see what catches my eyes to make stops.

  2. I love road trips! And these are all great tips. It’s funny; my husband calls me a gypsy just like your mom. If it were up to him, we’d probably never go anywhere, not for lack of desire, but lack of planning. :p

  3. Planning ahead is so key, I agree! We try to anticipate our needs and pack everything we can think of. I hate needing to buy stuff we’ve forgotten, so we have a packing table where we lay out all of our stuff in advance to make sure we’re not missing anything.

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