1. Cash in credit card rewards
Credit card rewards aren’t just good for airline miles — some cards offer discounts on all kinds of road trip-related expenses! For example, with Capital One Venture Cards, you can redeem your miles on car rentals and hotel rooms. In addition, when you rent a car with your credit card, you get free damage, collision and loss insurance, and 24-hour roadside assistance if you get locked out or your car breaks down on your trip! The US Bank FlexPerks Travel Rewards Visa Signature Card offers up to 25 percent off car rentals at National Car Rental. But that's not all — members also get one certificate every year that is good for a three-day weekend car rental! Plus, cardholders get special offers like free hotel upgrades and two-for-one movie deals.
2. Use an Entertainment Book
Purchase an Entertainment Book for $15 for the cities you plan on traveling through or vacationing in. These books are chock-full of 50 percent-off deals and two-for-one restaurant coupons. Most of the Entertainment Books also contain deals like discounted movie tickets, two-for-one admission coupons to area attractions, and coupons for $5 off a $50 grocery store purchase.
3. Use the TripTik app
TripTik is a free app for iPhone and Android from AAA that not only allows you to create a route, but helps you locate vacation attractions and provides you with prices at nearby gas stations as you travel. The app also calculates the cost of fuel for your entire trip so you can budget appropriately. In addition, it provides reviews and pricing info on nearby hotels — you can even call to book the hotel right from the app! TripTik even notifies you if there is traffic congestion or road construction ahead, which helps you save gas and time when you take an alternate route.
4. Check out neighborhood festivals
Rather than fork over $200 or more for your family to get into a theme park, visit a free city festival! Many cities put on festivals each year that include a day (or sometimes weekend) of free music, parades, sporting events, kids’ activities, shopping and art. Some examples in a big city like Atlanta include the Dogwood Festival, the Inman Park Festival and the Decatur Arts Festival. Vacationing in a smaller city? There's a neighborhood festival for that! Smaller towns like Wenatchee, Washington spend all year gearing up for a big blowout like the Apple Blossom Festival. Check Festivals.com to find an event at your vacation destination.
5. Couch surf!
Rather than pay for a hotel, use CouchSurfing.com to find free accommodations for your entire family while you travel. It might sound strange, but CouchSurfing is actually a safe and legit website when used properly. After you sign up, click on the "Find a Couch" tab where you can search through member profiles and locations until you find the perfect lodging for you. Select the "Send CouchRequest" button to arrange accommodations with your preferred host. Only stay at homes that are verified by the site (you will see a green checkmark by their name) and have good reviews by other members. All aspects of this site are free, even your accommodations! In fact, the site discourages paying for anything. If you feel you must contribute in some way, CouchSurfing recommends cooking your host a meal, bringing a small gift or taking your host out to dinner.