Make your next vacation a road trip

Beach in Aruba’s high-rise hotel zone is lined with palm trees. (Larry Luxner)

Have you seen airfares lately?  Prices were high in 2012, but you can expect them to be even higher in 2013.  This can cause great trepidation to those considering a family vacation for Spring Break or summer vacation.  When the majority of the price of a vacation ends up going toward airfare, what’s a person to do?  How about a family road trip?

Let’s compare possible travel options for April 2013 Spring Break for a family of four (2 adults, 2 children ages 9 and 12) for dates 4/12-4/20:

Crystal Casino, along L.G. Smith Boulevard in downtown Oranjestad.
Crystal Casino, along L.G. Smith Boulevard in downtown Oranjestad. (Larry Luxner)

Option 1: Trip to Aruba

Airfare for four people from Baltimore to Aruba: $475.00 per person or $1900

All-inclusive resort for 8 days for four people: $4000.00 total

We can estimate that this trip not including additional excursions, souvenirs, or incidentals will come out to somewhere in the neighborhood of $6000, but will most likely be more.

Option 2:  Train trip to Atlanta

Now let’s look at other possible options.  How about a train trip from Baltimore to Atlanta?  Round trip train service for four (2 adults, 2 children) comes to $714.00.  Hotels would run anywhere from say $89/night to over $400/night.  Even if you choose the high end, five star hotel, you still come out ahead and you have given your family a vacation where you can see the sights of America on your close to 700 miles road trip each way.  You are responsible for meals, maybe a car rental, trips, and other incidentals.

Option 3: Road trip by RV

How about an RV trip?
How about an RV trip?

What about an RV?  Think you can’t afford to buy one so that’s out of the question, right? Wrong!  What about renting an RV? An RV rental on even a large RV (C30) from Cruise America with 800 estimated miles comes to under $1800.  That is your hotel and transportation and you can save money on dining by preparing food in your RV.

Travel to some fun historic sites like Gettysburg or visit family or friends in other states.  Gas, food, and other incidentals will be your only added expense, but you own the road and you decide when and where you will travel.

Option 4 : Road trip by family car

Another option that many families choose for family vacations is to pile into the family car and head out on the open road.  It’s your car so you’re already paying for the insurance so all you have to pay is gasoline while on the road.  You can choose to stay at a fancy hotel, but if you’re looking to make this an economical trip, you can find plenty of other cost effective options.  For example, you can stay at a campground, a discount hotel chain, or maybe you could stay at the home of a friend or family member.  Besides gas, your additional expenses are lodging (if you can’t stay with friends or family) and meals.

What do you get out of a road trip?  You get plenty of time together with your family that you probably don’t get on a regular basis while at home.  Spending time altogether, even with reluctant teenagers, your vacation will result in great bonding time and you won’t even need to do anything, as it will occur naturally.

Here are some great apps to help you with your road trip:

  1. Gas Buddy: Find the best price on gasoline from the convenience of your vehicle.  Save money by choosing the best gas station without having to drive around.
  2. Room Key: If you like using the same hotel chain, like Marriott, Choice Hotels, Ramada, etc., this might be the app for you.  Find lower prices without having to rifle through brands you might never stay at.
  3. If you really want to save money while being adventurous, use this app to find a last minute hotel.

Isn’t it time you hit the road with your family and enjoyed a completely different kind of vacation?