Why You Should Be Planning a Road Trip Right Now

Family Road Trip Tips
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Need a reason to drive instead of fly to your vacation destination this year? Do it for your bank account.

Taking a road trip hasn't been this cheap since 2010. The cost of owning and operating a vehicle in the United States has fallen to a six-year low of $8,558, according to AAA’s 2016  Your Driving Costs study. ​

There's a big reason why a road trip is by far the most popular way for families to get to their destination. A family road trip within a day's drive of home is always the most cost-efficient option, and families can further lower costs by using tried-and-tested strategies for putting together an affordable getaway, such as finding free kids' meals on vacation and other ways to plan a vacation on a budget.

This year, a driver can expect to spend 57 cents for each mile driven, or about $713 per month, to cover the fixed and variable costs associated with owning and operating a car. And compared to last year’s AAA study, the average price of regular fuel fell more than 25 percent to $2.14 per gallon. At the same time, improvements in vehicle redesign and technology increased the average fuel economy.

“Thanks to lower gas prices, American drivers can expect to save hundreds of dollars in fuel costs in 2016,” said John Nielsen, AAA’s managing director of Automotive Engineering and Repair. “Fortunately, this annual savings more than offsets the moderate increases in maintenance, insurance, finance charges and other costs associated with owning and operating a vehicle.”

5 Things to Do Before Every Road Trip

  1. Get a pre-trip tune-up. Check the headlights, brake lights, indicator lights, oil, tire pressure, belts and hoses, brake fluid, antifreeze fluid and battery. Ensure that infant car seats, toddler car seats, and booster seats are properly installed.
  2. Check insurance, registration, and license. Make sure all of your documentation is up to date and readily accessible in your car, especially if you're traveling out of state, where fines may be greater. If you belong to an auto club, program the phone number into your smartphone.
  1. Plan your route in advance. Use a GPS app such as MapQuest or Waze to view traffic conditions along your route.
  2. Keep tabs on the weather. Be sure to check traffic reports and weather conditions before you leave. The Weather on Wheels app not only tracks the forecast along your route, it advises when it's time to take a detour or break until the storm passes.
  3. Pack a cooler. If you want to save money along your route, bring your own beverages and snacks so you're not at the mercy of overpriced fast food. Use tips for tracking down healthier, just-as-inexpensive options that are sure to please even picky eaters as much as their parents. 

    Money-Saving Road Trip Apps

    Want to lower the cost of your getaway even more? Start by downloading some essential road trip apps,

    An essential road trip app, GasBuddy can help you estimate how much you'll spend on a car trip. Using real-time reports from other app users, it can also direct you to the cheapest gas stations along your route. 

    Need a last-minute hotel, the HotelTonight app can land you a super deal with just three taps and a swipe. By matching travelers with unsold hotel inventory, HotelTonight can help you find a room for the same night or up to a week out, at more than 15,000 hotels in over 500 destinations all over the world.