How to Create a Budget: Save on the Family Summer Road Trip

How to Save on the Family Summer Road Trip - USAA Member Community


There is nothing that states “Summer’s Here!” like a family road trip. The summer family road trip is one of those great family traditions to experience new things, spend time together, and truly undertake an adventure as you travel across America or another foreign country.   


Family Summer Road Trip Savings Tip #1 – Pack The Snacks. Food can quickly become a major expense for a large family and encourage needless stops to “get something to eat” that can become unhealthy and expensive. The best way to combat this trend is to pack lots of heat resistant summer snacks in small portable bags. Let each child pick several of their favorite healthy snacks and pack plenty of them. Don’t forget about trash bags, paper towels, and wet wipes to help clean up. Finally, milk and water are the best choices to ensure hydration.  Limit sugar drinks and sugar snacks to small quantities only a couple of times a day. 


Family Summer Road Trip Savings Tip #2 – Hotel with a Kitchen. When you arrive at your destination, the long term style hotels that have a kitchen, stove, refrigerator and microwave are the solution for large and small families. With a small kitchen, you can make great meals when it fits your schedule and at the price point you want. Additionally, snacking is an inexpensive proposition because you have everything that you need in your room. Finally, little children that have specific food requirements, like a bagel for breakfast, can get a taste of home before they start the day or climb into bed. 


Family Summer Road Trip Savings Tip #3 – Consider a Campground. If you are up for an adventure, then a campground that offers spaces for tents, a shower, and some inexpensive dining options close buy is the choice for you. The vast majority of campgrounds can be reserved on line and some campgrounds even offer you the option to choose your own view. Finally, campgrounds offer old style family fun of renting a canoe, swimming in a lake, and, of course, s’mores after a long, sun filled day.


Family Summer Road Trip Savings Tip #4 – Plan Your Trip, But Not Too Much. Having a general schedule for a road trip is a must. Having a timed to the minute schedule, not so great. When you are planning your routes and destinations, let the entire family pick and choose two or three side destinations along the way to stop and experience some great roadside attractions. There are dinosaur museums, the largest ball of (fill in the blank) in six counties, or a small roadside café with the best peach pie in the state. The point is these unplanned, unique, and corny roadside attractions are part of the summer road trip experience. That also means getting off the Interstate for a time and going by smaller roads.


Family Summer Road Trip Savings Tip #5 – Look for Off Peak Events. Finding off peak locations for a summer road trip can be an amazing way to discover discounts, get away from crowds, and create incredible memories. For example, in the summer, when everyone is at the beach, you can go to the mountains or a ski town to discover new places. Some summer places have festivals and then have very few people the week following the event – there is an opportunity of discounts there. Get on the phone or e-mail and be creative to find an off-peak location with a discount and a new perspective on what can be done on a summer vacation.


Family Summer Road Trip Savings Tip #6 – Set a Daily Limit for Event Spending. Events such as amusement parks, water parks, and arcades can devastate a vacation budget quickly. For these events, plan a single day at the amusement park and alternate one or two days with some lower cost options such as a State Park or an off-peak-demand location. Having a strict daily limit on your spending will help you enjoy and appreciate the amusement parks and still leave your budget intact at the end of the trip.


Summer is a time for road trips, families, and being together. Use a few simple techniques to help keep the mood light, the family involved and happy, and the budget on track. Have fun, drive safe, and enjoy the view!



About the blogger:
Chad is the author of two books: (1) Combat Leader to Corporate Leader and (2) Battlefield to Business Success.  Chad’s brand message is that organizations & individuals need to translate and apply military skills to business because they immediately produce results and are cost effective.  Chad is a retired US Army Special Forces Lieutenant Colonel with 20+ years of Active and Reserve service in infantry, Special Forces, and joint headquarters units.  He served in Iraq, Bosnia, Korea, and throughout the United States.  He was awarded the Bronze Star, the Combat Infantryman Badge, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Special Forces Tab, and the Ranger Tab.   Chad is an adjunct Lecturer of Marketing at Creighton University in Omaha, NE.  In addition to teaching, he is a mid-level marketing executive and has worked in marketing and sales roles for various companies, including General Electric, Comcast, and Manugistics.  He has been published in over 110 different articles in over 85 separate publications including The Harvard Business Review blog, Business Week Online, Forbes, Christian Science Monitor, and USA Today.  He has a BA from Northwestern University and an MBA from Georgetown University.


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