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How to take a road trip without breaking the bank

Start with an itinerary and key apps to save money and time

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With summer fast approaching, many people are starting to plan their vacations. While it may be tempting to book a flight to a faraway and exotic location, some opt for a road trip instead.

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Whether with family or friends, hitting the road is an experience like no other. And, with a little planning, you can save quite a bit of money.

Think about your accommodation

One of your biggest expenses will be your accommodation. However, if you choose to sleep outside of popular cities, you can save a good amount, perhaps hundreds of dollars per night.

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Granted, you won’t be able to walk to trendy neighborhoods if you stay further out, but since you have access to a vehicle, that probably won’t matter much.

One tip is to find a place to stay that is close to public transport, so you can easily access the main attractions.

Alternatively, you can drive during the day and pay for parking. Even if you’ll pay extra for parking and/or public transit, it’s still likely to be a lot less than what you’d spend if you booked a hotel downtown.

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Remember that the brand of hosting you choose can also make a difference. Economy and family-friendly brands such as Super 8, SpringHill Suites, and TownePlace Suites are ideal for those looking to save.

Trace your route

When traveling on the road, you’ll want to make sure you have a clear idea of ​​where you’re headed. Flying it can take you in the wrong direction, costing you time and money to get back on track. Luckily, it’s easy to plan things these days with digital maps.

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Using Google Maps is often the obvious choice since you can map things out. However, this would require you to have a mobile device with a roaming data plan, which can be expensive. Of course, you can download the maps to use them offline, but then you’ll be limited to what you’ve already saved.

An alternative is to consider any built-in features your vehicle may already have. Select GM vehicles offer Maps+, a fully integrated navigation application that provides up-to-date information such as traffic conditions, points of interest and even parking locations.

It also features voice commands and directions with road hazard alerts, so you can arrive on time and safely. Maps+ requires a subscription with OnStar, but since it can be canceled at any time, you can only get it for the duration of your trip.

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Save on Gas Where You Can

If you are traveling to Canada and the United States, you must download the GasBuddy app. It lets you see real-time gas prices at different gas stations, so you can fill up where it’s cheapest.

Plus, you can search the app’s map by city, state, and zip/zip code. You can even search for a specific gas station brand. Another cool feature is the ability to estimate your gas cost based on your car model and route, so you can plan accordingly.

For those heading to the United States, another way to save money is to pay with a credit card with no foreign transaction fees, such as Scotiabank’s Visa Infinite Passport card. With this card, you save on the 2.5% foreign exchange fee that most credit cards charge each time you make a purchase in a currency other than Canadian dollars.

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Become familiar with local laws

The rules of the road differ depending on where you are driving. In Canada, driving 10 to 20 kilometers over the speed limit in the fast lane probably won’t get you stopped. However, you can expect to see flashing lights behind you if you are only a few miles over the speed limit in some US states.

I know this from personal experience after being arrested in Pennsylvania when I was five miles over the limit. The “speed demon” in me cost me $100.

It should also be noted that traffic rules in Canada can also vary. A flashing green light in British Columbia signifies a light signal activated by pedestrians. In BC you should approach it with caution as it can turn yellow/red at any time.

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However, in Ontario, a flashing green means you have the right of way to turn left. Not knowing the difference could lead to a costly accident.

Skip the insurance

When renting a car, one of the first questions they will ask you is do you need insurance? Although your instincts may tell you yes, you may already be covered. If you already have auto insurance for your personal vehicle, chances are you’ll also be covered for car rentals. Many credit cards also offer car rental insurance, as long as you charge the entire rental to your card.

You will need to decline the rental agency’s insurance for your existing insurance to apply in both scenarios. If you’re not sure what you’re covered for, call your insurance company or credit card provider to confirm.

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It should be noted that credit card insurance policies generally do not cover third party liability, such as a scenario where you are in an accident and the other driver sues you for bodily injury. It may be worth buying this insurance to protect yourself, but you’ll also want to research whether liability insurance is already included with your rental.

Pack food

Meals are another big expense when traveling, but there’s no reason to stop to eat every time you’re hungry in a car. Packing a hard cooler or cooler bag can help you save money as you can store sandwiches, snacks and drinks.

Remember that many grocery stores also offer prepared meals which can be a cheaper option for a larger group. Leftovers can be stored in your cooler.

This article provides information only and should not be construed as advice. It is provided without warranty of any kind.

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