I know some of you might be planning car trips this summer and I thought I’d pass along some ideas on how to save money on car trips.
Unfortunately I can’t do much about the price of gas but I can offer some suggestions for entertainment and meals.
We take tons of car trips- year round really with our little girls and I always take a lot of time to plan out the trip. If the kids are bored and crabby it makes the entire experience such a drag. So here are some of my ideas:
Save Money On Meals/Food:
Pack your own snacks- as much as possible. I ALWAYS do this because I want to make sure we are eating well (not tons of fast food) and it saves time to just have what you need on hand- not to mention those not so great roadside meals that can often get very expensive.
Here are some of the types of things I might pack: almonds, trail mix, crackers and cheese, sliced salami, string cheese, sandwiches (PB&J is perfect), apples, bananas, sliced peppers, pretzels, baby carrots, homemade banana bread/zucchini bread, dried fruit, milk boxes, granola bars, cereal cups, waters, energy drinks/soft drinks/coffee drinks, popcorn, applesauce pouches, frozen smoothies, homemade cookies, bagels, almond butter.
This will depend on your cooler situation. I usually pack a cooler and eat the perishable items the first day and then we can either fill the cooler with ice again or eat the dry goods. I try to pack food that is yummy- like fun cheeses, crackers and sliced apples so it seems like a treat to eat. When we make the long drive to Disneyland, I usually do homemade lunchables for lunch time- that includes good salami, crackers, cheese, sliced cucumbers- all in Ziploc containers. I also do a breakfast one with hardboiled eggs, fruit, granola and yogurt. That seems to be filling enough to skip the drive through for our family and snacks are always available if they are still hungry.
If you do plan to stop for food, you can check KidsEatFree.com for restauarnts that offer free children’s meals or check Groupon or Living Social for discounted vouchers. Most major cities you might travel through will have several options and you can show that voucher right on your phone. You can also go directly to the restaurant’s Facebook and homepage- often they have coupons for getting text alerts or registering for emails. Last but not least, restaurant.com will often offer discounted vouchers for restaurants all over the country. Be sure to search for a Restaurant.com coupon code before you buy your voucher.
Entertainment for Small Children:
For my girls I spend a lot of time putting things together to entertain them. The biggest concern I always have is avoiding things that create a huge mess in the car.
Electronics are the most obvious- iPad and iPhone apps are fantastic. Here are a few free apps you might consider:
- PBS Kids App
- Disney Junior App and Appisodes
- And they can listen to tons of books being read from the Barnes and Noble Online Storytime
I have a portable DVD player that has been well worth the money. Just be sure to get kid-safe headphones and if you have two children, you can buy a splitter for both of them to watch. Gaming devices and such are also perfect.
I make little bags or little plastic tubs with things to do. Here are some of the things I include:
- Sticker Books (and I always set rules about where they can stick them)
- Coloring pages or coloring books, Activity books, free printable worksheets (all found easily from pinterest or Google)
- New books (just small little paperbacks that are inexpensive and easy to pack)
- New toys -little things from the Dollar Store are great- just avoid tiny pieces or messy things (Playdoh might not be the best option.)
- Games- if you search Google or Pinterest there are all sorts of free printable games such as iSpy, matching games and more. Be sure to bring a little treat or something as a reward for the winner.
I actually wrap toys and the children get rewarded with them for good behavior or include them in with meals- like a DIY Happy Meal.
Blankets, pillows, cozy socks, change of clothes and diapers are all great extras (and PS my kids don’t need diapers but I still pack 1 or 2. If you are not in a spot to find a potty and have a 4 year old that needs to go NOW- you can always pull over, pop on a Pull Up, close your eyes and say a silent prayer that there are no leaks, tightly wrap that little thing in a baggie and be on your way. ) If you are horrified by my confession I apologize but having an accident in the car seat is not the best alternative so there you have it.
Oh and I like either clipboards for the children to attach their little things to color and such or the Dollar Store has cookie sheets. Those work perfectly for little race cars to hold papers for coloring and also to help them balance food.
Last but not least, if you have time in a new city for a little play with your kiddos what not do a Google search for “free children’s activities in xyz city.” Major cities will likely have blogs that cater to locals and these are a great resource when you are travelling. If nothing else you can always look for McDonald’s or Chik Fil A because those often have indoor playgrounds. The children can burn off a little energy and everyone else can stretch legs and maybe get a little something for the road. (they will often give you ice for your cooler if you ask super nicely AND McDonald’s has free WiFi if you need to check some things out while the littles play.)
Entertainment for Older Children or Adults:
I bring my laptop on all car trips and spend a lot of the time working. I actually have an inexpensive aircard for Wi Fi and a car adapter to charge the battery if needed. Since I do bring my laptop, I can also rent movies from Redbox to watch either in the car or at the hotel. Redbox is everywhere so it is easy to return them- just be sure to bring head phones too. If your children have portable DVD player’s you might consider movies on that just remember to get the right chargers for the car.
Audiobooks- I have gone on and on about Audible but I really love audiobooks. You might choose something the entire family would enjoy (like Harry Potter) or get something for the driver to listen to. I always listen to books in the car- you can play them right off your phone app and no headphones are needed.
Travel Games can be fun depending on the age of the children. You can buy card games for just a few dollars or mini sizes of games like Battleship.
And regardless of the ages of those in your car- extra bags for trash, plenty of water, baby wipes and Purell are great things to make sure you have on hand.
I hope some of these tips have helped!
This article is part of the 30 Days to a Funner Summer Series.
You can catch up with the entire series by click below: