Each month, you'll be able to get answers directly from experts covering a wide range of parenting topics. You'll also have a chance to share your own expert tips with other parents. Join the conversation!
Laurel Smith writes about traveling with kids on her website, MomsMinivan.com Read more »
Sorry, Laurel Smith is no longer taking questions.
Got a long stretch of road to travel with your family? Then, you'll want to stretch your dollar too!
One of the main reasons many families choose to drive instead of flying to their destination is to save money. Here are some tips to make your show on the road even more affordable:
Plan ahead for meals and snacks for the drive.
Instead of buying fast food on the road, take a few extra minutes to grocery shop beforehand, then bring food with you. Pack lunch ahead or make it on the go. For example, bring a loaf of bread, peanut butter (or another spread), a squeezable container of jelly, and some utensils. Get out and stretch your legs at a rest stop and enjoy a picnic.
Make sure that you pack snacks, too. Buying them at a roadside stop can be very expensive. Consider these kid-friendly snack ideas: homemade trail mix, cereal mix, string cheese, and fruit that travels well such as apples or grapes. Pack the snacks in individual plastic baggies for each passenger — less mess and less arguing!
Drink water instead of soda or juice in the car. It's much healthier, much cheaper and doesn't make a sticky mess when it gets spilled. Put the water bottles in the freezer a couple of days before your trip. Then pack the frozen water bottles in your cooler instead of using ice to keep your other items cold and drink them as they melt.
Entertain kids for free while you're traveling.
Start with free Printable Car Travel Games (like Road Trip Bingo, and Lines and Dots), coloring pages and lyrics to songs the family can sing to pass the time.
Then play some traditional car games that don't require any materials such as Counting Cows, The License Plate Game, I Spy and Twenty Questions. Other activities requiring minimal materials: Aluminum Foil Art (you just need a roll of aluminum foil), card games (just one deck of cards to play Crazy 8's or Old Maid) and String Figures. There are instructions on how to play these and other activities in this list of car games for kids or for toddlers.
Here's another idea, borrow CDs and DVDs from the library instead of buying them. Have your children select some new titles that they might not have otherwise considered.
Try to limit eating out at your destination.
When on your vacation, look for "Early Bird" dinner specials, and try eating out for just one meal per day and eat-in for the others. One travel-savvy friend of mine who does this says, "We usually eat a late lunch out after a breakfast of fruit and bagels, and then dinner is fruit, cheeses and crackers. One big meal for us and small snacks are easier."
Decide on souvenir purchases before you leave.
Agree with your family ahead of time that you will only be purchasing one souvenir per person (or whatever your limit) and take photos to use as your main keepsake instead.
Make these photo souvenirs extra personal for everyone by letting the kids take some of them - perhaps with their own disposable camera, or by borrowing your digital camera for a few shots. When you get home, consider framing one (or more) of the photos as a special memento.
Adopt good driving habits that save gas.
Slow down! Drive at a constant speed (use your cruise control) and observe posted limits. Excessive speed wastes gas and speeding tickets waste money. Avoid unnecessary idling, too. Turn off the engine if you're going to stop somewhere for longer than a few minutes.
Save money at home while you're away.
Trade pet-sitting with neighbors or friends instead of paying for a kennel while you're away. Remember to set your air conditioner or heater when you leave, so that you're not wasting money cooling/heating the house excessively when no one is home. Be sure to call your newspaper delivery and have them temporarily stop your paper; they'll usually credit those days to your account.
Above all, try to plan ahead to avoid last minute or impulse purchases. In other words, don't be a penny wise and a dollar foolish! A little bit of planning along with other small changes that you make, can really add up to big savings during a long road trip. And, you'll feel even better about spending this time with your family.
What wallet-friendly tips do you have for traveling with children?
Sorry, Laurel Smith is no longer taking questions. Feel free to comment on the article and let us know what you think about the topic.