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One Cheap Chick: Plenty of ways to save on the road

Published April 21, 2012 1:01 am

Save • Use deals sites and other tools to help you trim travel costs.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Whether you're heading out of town for spring break or a summer vacation this year, there are plenty of ways to save when you hit the road.

Here are some of my favorites:

Leverage daily deals sites • If you're headed to a city that has daily deals sites, check in on them in the weeks leading up to your trip. Sites such as Groupon.com, Eversave.com and LivingSocial.com have restaurant deals and other offers good in cities nationwide. To find deals sites in the areas where you'll be, simply Google the city you will be visiting and "daily deals." Sites you find can help you save on restaurant meals, admission to events and attractions and lodging.

Many deals sites also offer deeply discounted travel packages. On Groupon.com, for example, click on "Getaways" at the top of the page and you'll find an assortment of domestic and international vacation packages.

On the road and looking for a deal on dinner? Use Groupon.com's app to buy a discounted dining certificate and present your phone to the server once you arrive at the restaurant. Go to Groupon­.com/mobile for details.

Take advantage of free-admission or discount offers • On National Public Gardens Day, you can get in free to any of dozens of botanical gardens nationwide. Go to npga.bhg.com for a list of participating gardens and to sign up for your free tickets.

The National Parks System also offers several free-admission days each year. This year, you can enter a national park for free on April 21-29, June 9, Sept. 29 and Nov. 10-12. For more information, go to 1.usa.gov/cF6p7b.

Also, KOA campgrounds offers a buy-one-night-of-camping-get-one-free promotion each May. Go to Koa.com/come-camp-with-us for more information.

If you have a membership to a Utah attraction, it may get you in free to similar attractions in other states. For example, a Hogle Zoo membership could get you in free or half price to zoos nationwide.

Save at the pump • Gasbuddy.com tracks low-priced gas stations nationwide. Log on to find the least expensive gasoline near you. The site even has a nifty mobile app.

Look for discounted souvenirs • You can always avoid buying souvenirs to save money. But I like to buy them, so I look for ways to get them for less. One place to find souvenirs for less is Walgreens. Near Mount Rushmore one summer, I found touristy T-shirts on sale for four for $10, or $2.50 each. At a Daytona Beach Walgreens, I found souvenir T-shirts for $5 each.

Both times, the shirts were comparable in quality to T-shirts sold at major tourist attractions for much more. Now, each time I'm on vacation, I make it a point to visit a Walgreens or a similar store for discounted souvenirs.

Use theme park policies to your advantage • On visits to Disneyland, you may want to consider wearing a backpack filled with items such as bottled water and snacks.

Although theme park employees go through backpacks before guests enter, they have no problem with guests bringing in food and beverage items. This could save the cost of a few pricey refreshments.

Several Tribune readers say they buy Disney merchandise and/or small toys on sales or clearance before they go to Disneyland and give their children a small gift each day during their visit. A Disney coloring book at a dollar store may be priced at $1 or two for $1 while at the theme park itself you could expect to pay $5 to $8 for the same product.

Use coupon books • The Entertainment coupon book is offered in cities nationwide. If you plan an extended stay in a specific state or city, you may want to buy that city's book. Books have been priced around $15 each lately. Go to Entertainment.com for more information.

Haul a cooler and snacks • If you have space, haul a cooler of cold drinks in your vehicle. You'll pay less for drinks purchased before you leave home than on the road at convenience stores.

Ditto for snacks. On our last road trip, I brought along a case of water, cold drinks, fresh fruit, sandwich fixings, homemade chocolate chip cookies and other baked treats.

Lesley Mitchell writes One Cheap Chick in blog form at blogs.sltrib.com/cheap. lesley@sltrib.com Twitter: @cheapchick Facebook.com/OneCheapChick