5 Money-Saving Tips to Drive Home for the Holidays
Editor's Note: Cameron Huddleston, the regular author of the Kip Tips column, is on vacation this week.
Whether it’s due to an old-fashioned wish to head over the river and through the woods or a protest against unwanted intimacy via new airport security measures, more people are expected to hit the road than fly the skies this holiday season. According to AAA, 39.7 million people plan to travel by car for Thanksgiving this year, up 12% over last year, and only 1.6 million will go by air. And the traffic pattern may be similar for the rest of the winter holidays, too. If you’re one of those millions, here are five tips to cut your costs before you head out on the highway:
1. Fill up at low gas prices. You can search for the lowest prices in your area on GasBuddy.com or GasPriceWatch.com before your trip. To find the best prices while en route, you can text GasBuddy at 368266, type “gasbuddy” and your current zip code or city and state, and get a response in a few seconds with stations and prices in your area (standard texting rates apply). And of course, there’s an app for that: The GasBuddy application is available for Droids. For iPhones, AAA’s free TripTik Mobile application will point you to the nearest gas stations and list the latest price information. It can also give you directions and details on local AAA-approved restaurants, hotels and attractions. See Best Apps for Autos for other helpful driving gadgets. And check out these 5 Ways to Save Gas Money.
2. Check your car’s health. To avoid costly (not to mention time-consuming and just plain annoying) car trouble along your holiday road trip, AAA suggests you check your tire pressure and tread, wiper blades and battery connections. Also, Progressive Insurance recommends always keeping some gas in your tank to keep the fuel line from freezing. For long-term car-care tips, see 5 Ways to Extend the Life of Your Car.
3. Rent a car. If your wheels aren’t road-ready, good news – according to AAA, car rental rates are down 4% from last year to an average $42 per day for a mid-size car. Visit Hotwire.com for the best listed car rental rates, or try bidding lower at Priceline.com (see our picks for Best Travel Sites). But remember to watch out for sneaky fees: You may not need their extra collision damage waiver insurance, and you can skip their charges for gas, a GPS or an EZPass by covering those costs yourself. For more information, see What You Need to Know About Renting a Car.
4. Prepare for the worst. Winter-road trouble is exactly the kind of thing you save for in an emergency fund. Be sure you have easy access to that stash of cash before you pull out of the driveway, so you can avoid putting any crisis charges on your credit card and risk incurring extra fees. If you have to use credit, pay it off as soon as possible. Other supplies Progressive Insurance and AAA recommend for your emergency holiday road kit: an ice scraper, a small shovel, your cell phone complete with emergency numbers, including your insurer, a flashlight with extra batteries, blankets, jumper cables, kitty litter and water.
5. Share a ride. You can find travel buddies to split gas costs with you through sites such as eRideShare.com or CarPoolConnect.com. But if being trapped in a car with strangers makes you nervous, try reaching out for a ride through your social networks either by Facebook, Twitter or word of mouth.