It's a change that everyone who owns a car has felt recently: The climb of gas prices as the spring season opens itself to travel ventures. While the next three seasons are some of the most popular for road trips, many are looking at them with doubt and concern due to rising gas prices. While emptying one's bank account for the sake of a road trip might feel like an inevitability, there are definitely some ways to keep the cost low when it comes to filling one's tank.
With some simple tips and some know-how, we can't completely soothe the burn of how expensive it is just to take a road trip. However, we can do what we can to mitigate the effect that it has on how, and when, we can travel.
Start Taking Advantage Of Those Card Discounts & Rewards Points
Something that many people don't realize is that many stores - especially supermarkets - offer rewards points to be used at certain gas stations. Throughout New England, for example, Price Chopper and Market 32 stores offer points every time one uses their membership card. These points can either be exchanged to pay for groceries, or for use at Sunoco gas stations. Every 100 points are worth one dollar, so it can add up quite quickly for those who do a lot of food shopping.
- Tip: Membership cards are free at these stores, so it's a great loyalty perk!
In terms of gas discounts, the points work a little bit differently. Each $100 spent at either Price Chopper or Market 32 will give rewards members five cents off one gallon of gas. It might not seem, significant but in a world with these kinds of gas prices, anything helps.
This gas savings to money spent metric is fairly common throughout most fuel loyalty programs. Those who use the BPme mobile app for BP and Amoco gas stations will also earn five cents off a gallon for every $100 spent. Another option to consider is the Exxon Mobil Rewards+ program, which provides drivers with 3 points per gallon purchased, and two points for every in-store and service purchase. When 100 points are reached, drivers will get one dollar off the next time they stop for gas.
Utilize Apps In Conjunction With Smart Destination Planning
Luckily, we live in a world where it's fairly easy to log onto any gas station locator app and see what prices look like. While most people use these apps to determine where the closest gas station is, travelers can hack this and use it to also find the cheapest gas stations. This is a great tip to use in conjunction with planning a road trip based on lower gas prices. It might sound super restrictive but it doesn't need to be - it's also a great way to explore a new place that one typically wouldn't.
Some apps to download:
- Gas Buddy
- AAA Mobile
- Gas Guru
In terms of destinations, those in the northern U.S. might want to consider a vacation further south. The further down the east coast one gets, the more affordable gas prices might become. Gas prices in major cities can also price a destination out of the running.
- Tip: Ditch the personal vehicle in favor of walkable cities or public transportation.
Another way to control the budget on gas prices during a road trip is to avoid gas stations off major highways. It's common sense that these gas stations will have slightly elevated prices due to the convenience of their location. Drivers who are passing through will likely be unfamiliar with the roads and be too uncomfortable to actively search for a gas station - thus, surrendering to the gas station option that's right off the main road.
- Tip: Consider using the aforementioned gas station apps to locate services nearby, that would be more affordable than highway gas stations.
Additional Tips For Money-Saving On Fuel During Road Trips
- Fully embrace the cruise control setting to maintain a consistent speed, thus eliminating the increase and decrease of fuel used during acceleration.
- Find other ways to chip away at the overall road trip budget - whether it's through accommodations, opting for a rental over a resort, or utilizing loyalty programs to get discounts in other areas of travel.
- Consider a staycation or a 'nearcation' - a location that's not far from one's hometown and thus, won't drive the gas budget into the ground.
- Double up and drive with a friend or family members who also won't mind splitting a budget for all things car and travel-related.
It might feel like road trips in the near future are money pits, but they don't need to be with a little bit of careful planning. These tips and hacks will help to keep the budget down, while still allowing travelers to embrace the open road - and not pay an arm and a leg for it.