Saving Time and Money on My Road Trip to New England

Vacation time can be hard to come by for Americans. The measly 13 holiday vacation days each year is among the lowest in the world, nearly half that of Japan, Korea and Canada and well below the 42 days Italians enjoy each year.

So when it comes to your time off you want to make the most of your time and your money. It seems no matter how much planning you do for your vacation everything on the trip ends up costing three times as much as you plan to spend.

I am an avid road tripper and have done done 40 or 50 journeys of more than 1,000 miles, not that I’m counting. I’m currently planning my next trip, a cross country road trek to New England this fall to visit family and take in some changing leaves.

Here are some of my tips for saving money on your road trip:

Search in multiple places for deals: The first thing I always do is search out the best rental car deals online with the major Internet travel sites. I also make sure to check the company sites and make a phone call or two if necessary to hunt for the best price. The better you prepare, the more you can save.

Plan your route: When planning the route I try to take the quickest one and the one that may offer the most places to stop and take in the sites if I get ahead of schedule. It’s also important to consider things like tolls (I’ve been stuck in toll plazas for hours) and places to rest.

Avoid Toll Roads if possible: For my next trip, I’m going to head through Pennsylvania instead of going through New York. The New York Thruway takes about 1/2 hour less time total, but adds the cost of tolls to the trip. Also, Pennsylvania is all mountains and trees, and sounds like a much more exciting drive in the fall. Another bonus of avoiding the toll road is the number of places to stop. Toll roads offer rest areas every so many miles, with higher than usual prices (hello monopoly) for food gas and anything else. Staying on an Interstate, like I-80 through Pennsylvania, offers plenty of places to pull over and each place has several places for gas and food — all of them competing with each other for your business which leads to better prices than the toll road counterparts.

Don’t be afraid to haggle: Years ago a good friend of mine had a job at the front desk of a hotel for about three weeks. He said one of the first things he was told that if someone comes in and offers $25.00 for a night they could accept it. He said the hotel had determined that with all their costs, it ran about $21.50 a night to rent out the room, so anything above that would be profit. That number may not still be accurate, but if you’re not afraid to bargain, then go ahead. Chances are if they don’t rent the room to you it may go unused that night.

Ask: Haggling not your thing? You’re not alone. You can still get a reduced rate at a hotel by simply asking if they have a better offer. If they don’t you can ask if they’ll give you a free upgrade to better room. You would be surprised at the times I’ve gotten a cheaper deal just by asking. All they can say is no, so there is nothing to lose.

Check the books: When you use a rest area, check out the travel books located there. I’ve often had hotel clerks say the book has the best published deals they offer and if they currently have a better one you’ll usually get that at the desk. They will also tell you about the amenities that the hotel offers and what exit it’s on.

Don’t forget the amenities: If trying to decide between two rooms don’t always be swayed by the price only. Look at what else they have to offer, free laundry, free Wi-Fi, free breakfast. If your family of four has to stop for fast food in the morning, the free breakfast may be worth the few extra dollars at one hotel. A extra $5 added to the price may save you $10.00 or $15.00 in breakfast the next morning.

Take your time: The early bird may get the worm, but remember it’s the second mouse that gets the cheese. If you’re an early riser, you may wish to reconsider your travel schedule. It’s simple supply and demand. If you pull into a hotel at 6 p.m. and they have 25 rooms available, you may get a good deal. But if you pull into the same hotel four hours later and they still have 20 rooms available your deal will be much better. I’ve always found better deals from the clerk late at night because they know unless a bus pulls up the hotel is going to have unfilled rooms and they would rather your business than no business at all.


Paid Vacation Around the World, Infoplease

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