It's finally starting to feel like spring where I live, and I can't help but start planning fun road trips for my family of four. Honestly, with two kids under three years old, I don't think the actual being on the road part of a road trip will be fun at all.
I know that a seven-hour drive to Phoenix hardly counts as a huge road trip. However, it will still be a fun drive and cost a good amount of time and money. Here are three money-saving travel tips I use for our car trips during the summer months.
Plan Non-Spending Bathroom Stops
Potty breaks are going to happen, which means your trip will likely take longer than expected. You might as well face that now, because it seems that the younger the child, the more stops you are going to encounter.
Try to pick designated rest stops versus simple gas station and fast food bathroom stops. Even if everyone is fed, by some miracle, someone will be hungry for a snack if you stop at a place full of snack temptations.
Traveling with a toddler, or children in general, can be a challenge too since they always seem to have a full bladder at the most inopportune times. We usually take a small plastic potty with us so we're able to just pull to the side of the road, or off the first off ramp, for last-minute potty breaks.
Make an All-in-One Stop
Another thing that helps us on our road trip with a toddler is to plan a longer rest stop that checks all the things off our list — food, bathroom break, and a nice walk around. We found a rest stop that included some picnic tables and a small patch of grass.
This allowed us to have a small picnic and for our toddler to run and explore a little bit. This gave her something fun to do, and the extra dose of sun and activity helped her take a nap easily in the car (which was a win-win for everyone!).
Pack a Crock Pot?
For longer car trips, or if you have a larger group traveling with you, pack a crock pot full of food. Make a simple dish, such as chili, soup, or stew, and cook it in the crock pot at least four-to-six hours before you leave. Once everyone is ready to go, wrap the crock pot in some towels, place it in a box and it should stay warm for quite a long time. You can use a crock pot liner and paper plates for an easy clean up meal on the road.
I know some of you might be thinking that a crock pot is a bigger inconvenience to bring, but think of it this way: if you have four people in the car, and you already had homemade sandwiches for lunch, then a stop for a warm dinner could cost about $7 a person, if not more.
Packing your crock pot would save you at least $30 with tax. Then if you are staying at a hotel, you can still utilize the crock pot, even if you don't have a room with a fridge or kitchenette. Just simply buy the ingredients fresh, and place them straight into the crock pot with a liner. If you used your crock pot going to your destination, once while at your destination, and then coming home, you will have saved about $90.
In part two next week, I will share three more tips that I have used to save money and sanity while on a road trip. Until then, I would love to hear how you save money on your road trips with or without kids.
Written by Ashley Eneriz for MoneyNing and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.