Piker Press Banner
May 20, 2024

Yes, Virginia, You Can Afford a Road Trip

By Writer Gypsy

In spite of rising gas prices and a shaky economy, with a little planning your family can take a vacation this summer and still pay the rent or the mortgage. No, I can't show you how to take a family of five on a road trip for under $100.00, but I can offer you my own experience and what I've learned about making the expense manageable.

Our trip this year was from Memphis to Philadelphia. We'd planned the trip since before Christmas. We knew that we wanted to see a Phillies baseball game. We also knew that we wanted to spend a day in Ocean City, New Jersey, walking the boardwalk and freezing our toes in the ocean. The other thing we wanted to do was visit Independence Hall and see the Liberty Bell. This was quite a history lesson. But that's another article in itself. My sister-in-law lives about an hour west of Philly, and we were able to stay with her and her family for the week. This saved money on accommodations. Also, it gave us a chance to catch up on the family gossip from the four years since we last saw them. Staying with family, if possible and desirable, also saves some on food costs, though we tried not to take advantage. We did all of this and spent about $100.00 per person, including gas. How?

If you are like me, you like to have a written plan for most big undertakings. I outline novels and articles. I also write bare-bones agendas for vacations. This way, I can have an idea what our needs are in terms of both money and time. It also gives us time to find other places we would like to explore. However, not everyone likes to commit to a written plan. Still, you need to have an idea of what you want to do and what it will cost before you leave home. It would suck to take $200.00 in spending money to realize later you needed another $100.00 just to get by. The internet is a great resource for making vacation plans. It can help you save on travel through coupons, discounts, and vacation packages.

Also, make sure your vehicle is trip ready. An oil change, fluid check and balanced tires increase gas mileage and reduce the chance of breakdowns. Check your tires. Are they still in good shape? Do you need to get new tires before traveling? If you are traveling to warm climes, is your vehicle's air conditioner fully charged and working? Check your belts under the hood. Do they look cracked and worn? If so, they may need replacing. Even if you have to spend a little money to get your vehicle ready, it is cheaper than breaking down in the middle of nowhere and having to pay for towing.

Use your ice chest. Pack goodies to eat along the way, rather than paying exorbitant prices for junk food. If you, like me, have a family member who gets sick eating in a moving vehicle, take advantage of picnic stops and rest areas to spend time chatting and eating. This is a good chance for kids to run off pent up energy. Adults can stretch their legs. Of course, make sure everyone uses the facilities before heading out again. No one wants to get five miles down the road and hear a little voice from the back seat pipe up saying, "Mom, I've gotta pee."

We packed on Friday night, including food. Chips, pretzels and sandwich fixings in one ice chest, drinks in another. We left early Saturday morning and arrived that evening at my sister-in-law's house. The trip was smooth; the scenery in the Shenandoah Valley was breathtaking. I want to buy a mountian there and retire to that area during the warmer months. But I'd have to win the lottery or write a blockbuster novel for that. I digress.

We spent Saturday evening and Sunday visiting and catching up with family. And sleep. Monday, Memorial Day, we visited Brandywine Battlefield, where Washington lost to the British in his attempt to keep them from seizing Philadelphia. We also visited the Wilmington, Delaware, zoo. It rained that afternoon, but we had a wonderful visit with my other sister-in-law and her husband.

Tuesday was our first planned trip day. We went into Center City Philadelphia, to Independence Hall, home of the Liberty Bell. We ate lunch at Reading Terminal, which offers every type of food you could imagine and probably a few you've never heard of. After a good cheesesteak lunch, we strolled through Chinatown much to the delight of my daughter who is fascinated with all things Asian. The evening ended at the new Phillies ballpark watching the Mets win. The stadium is fantastic. Now, I have an itch to see an Eagles game from their new stadium.

Wednesday was shore day. The day dawned bright and beautiful, a perfect day to play at the beach. I fell in love with the boardwalk the first time I visited Ocean City in 1999. That love has only grown after a day of strolling the boardwalk in the sunshine and playing in the icy ocean waters. Our only expenses were $5.00 to park and food. Sure, we could have saved by bringing our own food, but the shore food is part of the joy of the trip.

Thursday, we made preparations to come home. We did laundry, packed, picked up the few groceries we'd need to eat on the way, and watched movies. Early to bed and up at 4 a.m. The trip home was less expensive than the trip up, as we didn't eat out for breakfast. However, the weather wasn't nearly as nice with steady rains in Virginia. A mist hung over the Shenandoah Valley and the mountains. We arrived home around 8:30 that night. All in all, we'd spent less than $300.00 for a week long vacation we all enjoyed.

One thing we found to be helpful was having a gasoline credit card. This limited us to a particular brand of fuel. It also set a limit on what we could spend on fuel and left the cash for baseball game tickets and parking at the shore. If you do this, take the time and effort to make sure you can pay the card off at the end of the month. This isn't easy, just necessary.

You can also save on souvenirs. Bring your camera with plenty of film (unless of course, it's digital) and plenty of fresh batteries. Pictures often make better mementos than the customary knick knacks. And they don't have to be dusted. If you must buy souvenirs, plan ahead. Give each family member a spending limit. For us, it was $10.00 per person per planned event.

So, with a little planning, you can take a road trip this summer that the entire family enjoys. Spend time challenging each other to find other ways to save money. Just because you don't spend a lot doesn't mean you do without. It just means you have to pick and choose what you will do and manage your vacation money accordingly. Bon Voyage!

Article © Writer Gypsy. All rights reserved.
Published on 2004-06-26
0 Reader Comments
Your Comments

The Piker Press moderates all comments.
Click here for the commenting policy.