The Road to Big Savings is a Mouse Click Away
Summer travel season is coming and you are dreaming of a road trip. However, the expense is making you shudder. The cost of a rental vehicle alone – whether car, van or RV – can be enough to make you throw in the towel and stay home. Add in the cost of lodging and admission to attractions and your road trip fantasy begins to feel like a budget nightmare. Fortunately, for crafty unbundled travelers like you, there are options! Here’s a list of three ways to reduce the cost of your summer road trip.
1. Rent an RV or a car for $1 per day
A quick search for the cost to rent a 5 passenger motor home to traverse the Pacific Coast Highway for a week from Los Angeles to San Francisco reveals that you’ll pay a whopping $728. A thrifty budget traveler can rent the same RV for only $1 a day, or less! That’s right one dollar. Here’s how it works. Rental car agencies spend a considerable amount of money re-positioning their fleet from city to city to accommodate customer demand. They can pay someone to move the RVs and cars or load them on expensive trucks or trains….or they can let you drive it for them, for practically free! Websites like Transfercar.com, cruiseamerica.com and autodriveaway.com connect those rental agencies with smart travelers like you.
Keep in mind, these relocation/rental car re-positioning trips are one-way only. The policies vary on how much of a cushion they provide for sight-seeing, but my research finds them to be fairly generous. You may not have time to stop off to see The World’s Largest Ball of Twine, but you should have plenty of time to enjoy the main attractions along your route. For instance, Transfercar gives you four days to drive a five passenger motor home the five hour stretch from San Francisco to Los Angeles. Bust out your map of the Pacific Coast Highway, book your one-way budget airline flights, and you’ve got the makings of the ultimate summer trip!
2. Stay for free along the way
We’ve all seen the movies or heard the stories of the America where wayward travelers were welcomed in and provided food and shelter by kindly homesteaders. If you thought this was a thing of the past, you are wrong. There are still people – all over the world – that will welcome you into their home! Check out these ways to make the accommodation portion of your road trip affordable and expand your friendship base: Couchsurfing.com is a global hospitality exchange website that links travelers with willing hosts. As a long term member of the Couchsurfing community, I simply cannot say enough positive things about it. Here’s how it works. Head to the couchsurfing.com website, create a profile, and then just like that you can start looking for available hosts (or become a host). Couchsurfing is free to join and there is never a charge for your stay. Over the past five years, our family has hosted travelers from as far away as China to as nearby as New York City. On a recent trip to Guatemala we found ourselves unexpectedly stranded overnight in Miami over a holiday weekend when all of the reasonably priced hotels were fully booked. With a virtual knock on the door of a stranger, we were welcomed into his cozy home and given shelter for the night. We met a new friend and saved ourselves $250.00. Like Couchsurfing, Airbnb is a website that connects travelers with budget friendly accommodations. However, unlike Couchsurfing, you do pay a fee for your stay. That fee is generally much lower than you’d pay for a similar room at a hotel in the same location. My dad has been a member of the Airbnb community for several years as both a host and a traveler. He uses the money he makes from hosting to augment his travel budget. The most fun about Airbnb is looking through the vast variety of unique housing choices. Want to stay in a treehouse in Texas? Or maybe get your Hansel and Gretel fix at a gingerbread house in California? Airbnb puts those options a mouse click away.
Want to get out of the city to tickle some piggies or learn how to gather eggs from under a chicken’s butt? Farm stays offer you the opportunity to experience a rural adventure at a real working farm. Farm stays are not formerly working farms converted to beds and breakfasts; they are actual thriving farms where you can live like and with the farm families during your stay. Some are hands-on with chores; others simply demonstrate. FarmStay U.S. describes the different farmstay possibilities like this:
In terms of lodging, some farm stays offer rooms right in the farm house. Others have converted old farm buildings, like silos and chicken houses, into wonderfully eclectic rooms. You might find yourself camping in a tent in the trees or at a campsite you choose for yourself down by the creek. Rustic with composting toilets or hotel-quality with jacuzzi baths, farm stays come in many shapes and sizes.Most of us offer breakfast on the farm. Other meals depend on how the farm is operated. Participation in chores is rarely required, however an extra hand is always welcome. Some farms offer classes in cheese making, spinning, gardening, cooking, even animal photography!
3. Coupon your way to free or reduced admission fees
Unfortunately, you won’t open up your Sunday newspaper and find free Disney World tickets in the coupon section. However, there are loads of places online that can help you reduce those road trip admissions or restaurant fees by a healthy chunk of change. Once I know where I’m heading for my summer road trip I go straight to sites like Groupon and LivingSocial and set my accounts to notify me of deals where I’ll be road tripping. You can save $10 just by signing up, sometimes! There are tons of similar sites each offering the possibility of road trip savings.
Hitting the National Parks on this road trip? You definitely need to look into the National Park annual pass. The pass is $80.00 and gives you and your passengers free admission to the National Parks and federal recreation centers. U.S. citizens over age 62 enjoy a reduced price lifetime pass for only $10, members of the military and their dependents qualify for a free annual pass and…get this – fourth graders get a free annual pass! That means your fourth grader gets YOU into all the parks for free!
All these savings means you have no excuse not to take a road trip this Summer! Where are you heading? Let us know!