Summer travel on a shoe string

With the summer finally rolling around and the weather getting more and more gorgeous every day, many students are starting to think about places they want to go and people they’d like to see before beginning their careers or coming back to school in the fall. Of course, being college students, none of us have enough money to do everything we’d like. Still, there are a few things anyone can do to save a little money and stretch those travel dollars a little bit farther. Don’t buy food on the road. Even if you plan to eat at fancy restaurants when you get where you’re headed, don’t waste you time and money eating at two-dozen fast-food joints along the way. Buy a loaf of bread, a couple of packs of lunch meat, and a few snacks. If you really don’t like eating in the car (and who can blame you), stop at a park or rest area and have yourself a picnic instead. Bring everything you might need with you. This includes toiletries and protection, especially if you’re traveling with your significant other. You might just be planning to have good, clean, platonic fun, but things don’t always go the way you planned. If you have room in your bags and might, in a million years, need something in particular on a trip like this, pack it. Buying all of the stuff you didn’t think you’d need will add a lot to your grand total. Don’t travel alone. Not only does it help financially to split the cost of gas with someone else, it’s also better for the environment. If you’re headed through any major cities, it can also speed up the trip because you’ll be able to use carpool lanes whenever you run across them. Of course, having someone else in the car can be nice as well, especially if you run into trouble along the way. Don’t stay in a hotel/motel unless you really need to. While these places are more comfortable than your car seat, they’re also a lot more expensive and not really all that cleaner. If you just have to get out of the car at night, see if you can borrow someone’s tent and sleeping bag. Find a camp ground along the way and turn your stop into a fun part of the trip. While most camp grounds these days come complete with showers and bathrooms, you may still want to check on this, just in case the one you’re looking at is “extra rustic.” Check gas prices every time you stop. While gas is pretty high in general, some places are higher than others. Gas is hovering around $2.80 a gallon for the cheap stuff in Sylva, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still find it for $2.60 or less a few hours away. South Carolina, in particular, generally has much lower gas prices because they have much lower fuel taxes. While going a few miles down the road to save a few cents probably isn’t worth it, if you’re stopping anyway, you might as well see what’s out there. Go ahead and top off your tank whenever you do happen to find a good deal. Pull off the road to avoid traffic problems. It’s a sad fact that not everyone is the best driver, and accidents even happen to good drivers. You can expect to run across something on any road trip of a significant length. Rather than letting your car idle so you can pull forward three feet at a time, just pull off the road and take a break. Most traffic problems are localized and don’t last more than an hour or two anyway. Construction, obviously, is the exception, but you still might be able to find a friendly gas station attendant who can give you directions around the problem. Remember to check those gas prices while you’re at it! Don’t be in a hurry. As much pride as you may take in making a four hour trip in two hours, it will burn through you gas quicker than you think. Going 80 mph will get you there only a little bit faster because you’ll really spend most of your time speeding up and quickly slowing right back down. On top of that, it’s a lot more risky to drive at that speed, even if you could maintain it the whole time. Most cars run most efficiently around 55 or 60 mph, so try to keep your speed in that range unless you know for sure your car works better in a different one. Also make sure you have enough time to really take your time; expect about an hour of delays for every four hours of the trip. While these tips probably won’t save you much individually, adding them all together can cut the cost of a trip almost in half. Imagine having twice as many road trips this summer, and it should be a lot easier to convince yourself that something as boring as saving a few dollars here and there can actually be worth it in the long haul.