MONEY SAVING TIPS WHEN PLANNING FOR A ROAD TRIP

Hitting the open road is one of our favorite ways to travel with kids, especially in the summer months. Whether we fly in and rent a car, or we take a long road trip from home, there is nothing better than experiencing somewhere new. Before you head out on the highway or those backcountry roads, you have to start planning for your road trip. You will want to keep your travel budget in mind, and also look at ways to save money throughout your journey. We are sharing a few of our road trip planning secrets that will not only guarantee you save money at the pump and on food, but also help you earn points for future travel too. Start a spreadsheet or note on your phone to keep track of what money you are spending and where. Whether it's pre-booking hotel rooms or grabbing discount activity passes, you should keep a running tally. I like to start a new Google Sheet for each trip that I can access on my phone with columns for gas, hotels, meals, attractions and special treats/extras. I set up equations before the trip, starting with my total trip budget and automatically subtracting expenses as I book things. This is a fast and easy way to see when you are going over budget, or when you have a little extra cash to splurge on treats and surprises for the kids.When you start to plan your trip, it's good to know how much it will cost to get there. By using an online fuel consumption calculator, you can get a pretty good estimate of how much you will need to fuel your tank to get from point A to points B, C and D on your trip. Knowing this one variable can help you plan out how much you can spend on meals, hotels and activities. Not sure how much gas (per gallon) will cost along the way? Make a rough estimate (I always go higher than I think), and plug it into the calculator, along with your car's average gas mileage and distance you will be driving. Voila- you now have a rough number to add into your gas budget.We love to save money at the pump. Our partner, Marathon, makes it easy to sign up for their rewards program, MakeItCount™, which gives you 5 cents off every gallon, every day. You can earn points to redeem on things like gas, hotels, airfare, and some of your favorite shops.Signing up is simple. Just go to the MakeItCount™ website for your free account. It only takes a few minutes. You can access your points anytime via the website or the MakeItCount™ app on your phone.I love the MakeItCount™ app because it is always with you. Simply pull up your account on the mobile phone app, scan the barcode at the pump and you start saving and earning points right away. Plus, you can earn points when you grab your favorite snacks, drinks and even a cup of coffee at a Marathon station too.Downloading the free MakeItCount™ app and setting up my account took less than five minutes. If you forget, you can quickly sign up right at the pump via your phone too. We busy parents never have to miss out on savings just because we got sidetracked planning for a road trip. I have my account tied to my Southwest Rapid Rewards number. Now, when I go on a road trip, I can dream about new places to fly and plan road trips there too. I don’t know about you, but we rarely carry around change or small bills anymore. I have no patience for waiting in a lineup of cars for someone to get change for a $20 on a 50-cent toll. I want to keep cruising through my toll lane, hopefully at a steady speed, without slowing down. Here on the East Coast, we mainly use EZ-Pass to pay for tolls. This saves us money when we are driving major toll roads and across bridges from Maine down to North Carolina and across to Illinois.