Road Tripping Still Within Reach of Budget-Conscious Families According to Family Travel Expert Amy Graff

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Fuel-efficiency tricks and creative planning key to $250/day journey.

Despite record high gas prices and rising costs of travel costs, a two-week, cross-country trip doesn't have to break the bank, according to Amy Graff, who writes the blog http://www.onthegowithamy.com. Amy, her husband and two children, both under the age of five, traveled Route 66 for 15 days in July, from Santa Monica to Chicago, on a budget of $250 a day.

The strict budget included food, lodging, gas, rental car fees, souvenirs, attractions -- everything that makes up a typical family vacation. With advance research and a little luck, Amy and her family came home with $50 left in their pockets. How did they do it? Amy shares the following tips, also posted at http://www.onthegowithamy.com, on how her family cut back on costs while on the road:

1. Lighten your load. Carrying 100 pounds in the trunk reduces a typical car's fuel efficiency by one to two percent (my husband packed only one pair of shorts, one pair jeans and a few shirts.) If you have cargo to haul, put it in the trunk instead of on a roof rack, which can decrease mileage by as much as five percent.

2. Inflate your tires and lose that lead foot. Under-inflated tires are a safety hazard and decrease fuel economy by as much as two percent per pound of pressure below the recommended level. Excessive braking and accelerating reduces fuel economy, as does driving faster than highway speed limits. Teach your kids to read the speedometer; they'll enjoy making sure you stay under 70 mph.

3. Invest in a cooler. Fill it with healthy snacks such as dried fruit, crackers, salami, cheese and yogurt. Also, pack a loaf of bread and jars of peanut butter. (Tip: sunflower seeds are a bad idea. My son threw these all over the car.)

4. Go for hotel freebies. Bed down at places that offer extra value: breakfast at the hotel, free Internet access and parking. We stayed at Best Westerns (http://www.bestwestern.com) for the entire trip and saved a bundle.

5. Carry refillable water bottles. A family of four can easily spend $20 a day buying water in plastic bottles. We invested in eco-friendly Klean Kanteens, which don't leach chemicals, toxins or funky flavors.

6. Split entrees. Unless you're eating at a hoity-toity place in the big city, restaurant entrees are typically humongous - and easily feed two hungry people.

7. Enjoy free entertainment. You can play I-Spy, 20 Questions or Name that Tune without spending a penny. Borrow audio books from your public library and download free printable car bingo cards from http://www.aaa.com/roadtrip. Best Western also has free downloadable games on its Trip Planner section of its Web site.

8. Dive into the hotel pool. Take a break from amusement parks and shopping malls where you're bound to overspend. My kids loved swimming in the pools at the Best Western hotels and my husband and I had some down time.

9. Opt for cheap souvenirs. My son collected rocks along Route 66--most of them he just picked up off the ground. My daughter put together a great postcard collection.

10. Take advantage of discounts. Your AAA card saves you money at hotels, restaurants and attractions (http://www.aaa.com). Pick up discounted amusement park tickets stores like Wal-Mart (http://www.walmart.com) and Costco (http://www.costco.com). If you're planning to visit several national parks, consider an annual pass ($80, http://www.nationalparks.org). Also, ask about hotel rewards programs. We ended up receiving $150 in credit through a summer promotion that gives you a free $50 travel card after every six nights at any Best Western (AAA members receive the card in five nights.) Sign up for Best Western Rewards at http://goldcrownclub.bestwestern.com.

Amy shares her wisdom and travel tips, along with photos from her family vacations at http://www.onthegowithamy.com.

With more than a dozen years of experience as a travel editor and writer, Amy most recently served as a senior editor at VIA, a travel magazine that reaches more than three million members of the American Automobile Association. Prior, she was a contributor to Bay Area regional lifestyle magazines including Diablo and San Francisco.

In addition to serving as a contributing columnist for Best Western, Amy writes for Sunset Custom Publishing and serves as the community manager for the San Francisco Chronicle's new parenting site, Bay Area Moms, for which she writes The Mommy Files blog.

About OnTheGoWithAmy.com:
OnTheGoWithAmy.com was created to celebrate the joys of travel and everything that goes with it - from flat tires and screaming children in the backseat to an amazing view of the New York skyline at the top the Empire State Building. Seasoned travel expert and journalist Amy Graff takes readers on the road with her husband and two children, her girlfriends and sometimes alone. Amy posts stories, pictures and videos from her family adventures, as well as helpful and unique tips she's picked up after traveling the world with her family.

About Best Western International:
Best Western International is THE WORLD'S LARGEST HOTEL CHAIN®, providing marketing, reservations and operational support to over 4,000* independently owned and operated member hotels in 80* countries and territories worldwide. An industry pioneer since 1946, Best Western has grown into an iconic brand that hosts 400,000* worldwide guests each night. Best Western's diverse property portfolio, its greatest strength, stems from a business model designed to give owners maximum flexibility to address market-specific needs. Equally committed to the business and leisure traveler, Best Western recently embarked on a five-year mission to lead the hotel industry in customer care. Since 2004, Best Western has served as the Official Hotel of NASCAR®. For more information or to make a reservation, please visit http://www.bestwestern.com.

*Numbers are approximate and can fluctuate.

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