As belts continue to tighten through summer vacation season, many families turn to the relatively affordable "one-tank trip" option for summer vacationing. A one-tank trip is a trip taken by car to an interesting location that you can reach with no more than one tank of gas. This geographical restriction can help you better control your costs while also fitting a trip into a small timeframe. (From lawn care to summer fairs, expenses can skyrocket if you're not paying attention. Check out Save Money On Summer Bills.)
TUTORIAL: Budgeting Basics
Like any vacation, a one-tank trip does need a little pre-trip planning and preparation. Here are six tips to help ensure you get where you need to go without breakdowns, getting lost or any other little mishap.
1. Get a Tune-Up
Before you start your summer driving, bring your vehicle into the mechanic for a tune up. While you are there, let your mechanic know that you plan to do highway and extensive city driving this summer and about how much. Ask him or her if there are any special steps you should take before each trip, like checking your oil, radiator and windshield wiper fluid.
2. Create Snack Packs
Taking a car trip with a hungry child is no fun, and stopping for food while on the road can be expensive and unhealthy. You can create snack packs for the summer out of slow-to-perish items like cheese sticks, canned fruits, individual sized cracker and cookie packs, and more. Buy these items in bulk (look for packages with expirations dates that fall outside your trip dates) and create packs ahead of time that you can store and grab when you are ready to go.
3. Buy or Borrow Travel Games
Kids get restless in the car, even on something as short as a one-tank trip. If you buy, make-up or borrow some travel games to keep them occupied not only will it stave off their boredom, it will help the drive become as much a part of the fun as the destination.
4. Pack a First-Aid Kit
Accidents can happen even during something as short as a one-tank trip. Pack a first aid kit with bandages, rubbing alcohol, scissors, tweezers, an instant cold compress, pain relievers for children and adults, a small blanket and any medications that your family members are on. Also, make sure to check the expiration dates on the pain relievers each summer so you can replace them when they are past their date.
5. Pack Maps in the Glove Box
You may think that you know the area you are heading to or that you can figure out your way around, but just in case it's always a good idea to have a map of the area handy. Getting lost while on a short trip can take a big chunk of time out of the day and end up ruining the whole experience.
6. Keep Extra Shoes and Clothes in the Trunk
Most one-tank trips do not require luggage, as they are often day trips. But anything can happen while you are out and about, so make sure you have a spare outfit and pair of shoes for each member of your family kept in the trunk. Then, if you get caught in the rain, your kids have an accident or you clothes get ripped on something, you have a comfortable alternative within reach.
The Bottom Line
While you never want to weigh down your car with unnecessary items as you prepare for your summer one-tank trips, there is no harm in being appropriately prepared for the worst. These tips above can help you stay organized and equipped without making your trip uncomfortable or burdened. (Vacationers are faced with a major financial risk: spending too much money. Find out how to avoid it. See All-Inclusive Vacation Keeps Travelers On Budget.)