We're Seeking Your Best Tips for Summer Road Trips

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June is just over the horizon, bringing with it sunny days, school breaks and summer vacations. But with gas prices still high and most Americans still pinching pennies, it seems likely that quite a few flights to the Bahamas and trips to Disney World will be supplanted by staycations, punctuated by the occasional visit to a nearby attraction or state park.

Then again, there's a classic bargain option that can help travel-hungry families get out of the house without emptying out their wallets: the great American road trip. Whether you're piling the kids in the car for the yearly trek to Grandma's house or speeding off in to destinations unknown, road trips can be fun, reasonably priced and exciting.

There are plenty of sites that offer suggestions for cheap vacations, or advice on ways to save pennies while on the road. However, in the interests of finding a new perspective, we're turning the question over to you, our readers. What do you do to save money on your road trips? What are your favorite places to visit and your top strategies for getting to them? In short, how do you enjoy your summer vacations without bankrupting yourself?

If you have any interesting or innovative vacation methods, please write them in the comments section of this article, or e-mail them to me at bruce.watson@teamaol.com. We will post the most interesting, unique and useful answers in an article in the coming weeks. In the meantime, enjoy the longer days and warmer weather. Summer is coming!

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pfjw

We decided to take a trip that involved only three (3) tanks of fuel - meaning all driving had to total approximately 1,500 miles with a little cushion (diesel vehicle). That will take us from Pennsylvania to Maine, allow us 600 miles of local noodling (we will be there for a week) and then the return trip. Using that model and drawing a 500 mile radius from our house - there are quite a number of options - Charlotte, VA to see Monticello and various caverns to-and-from. We could stretch to Ashville, NC. Baltimore Aquarium, Washington, DC (those two are 1-tank trips) . Lots to do.

May 19 2011 at 7:35 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
cbyarley

For a short road trip take a picnic and enjoy the outdoors - for a longer trip stay at a campground that offers basic camping cabins and do your own cooking on the firepit. I know!, who wants to cook while vacationing but hey, save some money and if you're like my wife and I at least we get to venture out.

May 18 2011 at 9:44 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
scottee

drive the speed LIMIT and stay in your LANE!

May 18 2011 at 9:43 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
bradsknn

There will be no road trips. Not with $4 gas. Not enduring a TSA screening or groping either. We'll stay home.

May 18 2011 at 1:26 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to bradsknn's comment
taysmom

Same here...can't afford to go anywhere. All our extra money is earmarked for our gas tank.

May 18 2011 at 9:06 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
jengle9718

For a stunning trip, go north from Peach Springs Az to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon; park and hike down the 13 miles of spectacular canyon scenery to the Havasupai Indian Village and Motel. (reservations requirred) or you can camp at various sites on the trail from the village to the "Havasu Falls", one of the most mystical and magic water shows in the world. The falls are high, the water collects in 20 ft wide stone pools (dozens of them) and is serpintine green in color. The fauna is semi tropical because of the canyon warmth with ferns and humidity. You can hike on down to the Colorado River which is brown and muddy, but also spectacular. Once your stay is over you can hike back up (starting at 3 A.M. to avoid the 120 degree heat during the middle of the day) or the Tribe will provide you with mules or even a helicopter, both for a fee. All of this is available through the Havasupai Indian Tribe which will take reservations for you. Enjoy! My wife and 2 daughters thought this was one of the best vacation experiences we ever had. Google the Havasupai Falls and get started.
Jim Engle
Los Angeles Ca

May 17 2011 at 11:40 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
savemycountry911

Just stay home.

May 17 2011 at 10:06 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to savemycountry911's comment
savemycountry911

We had planned to go to Europe. We got our house remodeled instead. Much better...........

May 17 2011 at 10:07 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Martha

Drive through one of the most beautiful states - Virginia. You can visit mountains and beaches. You can visit the homes of Presidents born in Virginia which include Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Harrison, Tyler, Taylor, and Wilson. You can also visit Civil War Battlefields or take photos of covered bridges. If you don't like what you see one day, blink and you will see something different the next day.

May 17 2011 at 8:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
family

For those that can take some type of road trip, then go for it. For those who cannot afford to leave town, then do something you never have before in your own town, or a nearby town. Visit the local gardens, museums, historical sights, zoos, parks, go fishing in a river, go swimming at your local pool, have a picnic in a new park or beach nearby, combine some of these activities over a couple days. You will enjoy this more than you think.

I also suggest our great state of Michigan, as Duby did. Lots of beaches, parks, etc, all for free, or near free. You are never far from water, here.

Washington DC-almost all attractions are free. Walk all over town, and take the subway only when necessary. Camp-or stay outside of town at the cheapest motel/hotel you can find-one with breakfast and free parking. You can do the search and make it a family endeavor. Hopefully one on the or near the Metro. We once stayed at the end of the line-had a nice, chain motel for around $69 a night. Load up on the breakfast, and pack a cooler to take with you on your road trip. Have sandwich fixings, and other such things, and pack a lunch-every kid carries their own backpack with their lunch in it. Then, either return back to hotel for more of the same, or eat at McDonald's/Subway etc. Pack all snacks. Pack all drinks. We always did this, whether we had extra money or not. It was fun picking out a place to eat our lunch and people watch, enjoy a park, sit under a tree, let the kids run a little bit.

Driving across country or to a certain destination? Same thing. Whether you camp or stay at cheaper motels, carry a laundry basket filled with paper plates, plastic cups, plastic bowls, silverware, paper towels, salt/pepper, condiments, cereal, pop tarts, power bars, snacks, water, P&J, bread. And of course, a cooler with small juices, sandwich meats, cheese, string cheese, fruit. There is your breakfast and lunch each day, picnics for lunch. Saves a heck of a lot of money. Expose your children to things that you know they won't like-like arboretums. In the end, the kids were pretty pleased with our visit, learned something new, and it was all free and easy. There are a lot of free or cheap things to do. And play-kids want to play, no matter their age. Run, toss a Frisbee, swing, walk along a beach, stop at a playground, go to thrift shops or cheap tourist stores for a one time visit-each kid gets $5.00 or whatever you feel is appropriate. And that is it. Talk this over before leaving. Establish schedules and rules and what is expected-tell them you will be eating picnics every day-and let them eat the same thing every day, if that is what they want. Easy! And then make the most of your trip, no matter how small, cheap, expensive, or varied. You will have a wonderful time.

May 17 2011 at 7:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
taysmom

Who are you kidding? Who can afford t take road trips with the price of gas (and everything else). Totally wasteful!

May 17 2011 at 6:02 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Duby

MICHIGAN ! Drive around our coast or straight up the middle, circle the UP cannot get lost water on every edge except southern bottem of Mitten and far west of the UP. Camp, cheap motels clean water. We also border Canada on 2 sides so it can be a international trip as well.

May 17 2011 at 4:06 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply