First and foremost, prime your car. Before you hit the road, make sure your car is as fuel efficient as possible. Unpack anything unnecessary. The more junk you have in your car, the more gas you'll need. Be sure to check the tire pressure. Over or under-inflated tires decrease fuel efficiency. Remember, "Just because you're going on the road, that doesn't mean you can overpack," says Grant.
Also, be sure to get to the pump at just the right time. Gas stations tend to change their prices between 10 a.m. and noon. "This is one of the easiest things you can do," says Grant. Aim to get there early if prices are on the rise. Wait until later in the day if prices are falling.
Finding the cheapest gas prices may require a little research. Price fluctuations and supply mean the same station won't always have the cheapest gas. Don't count out any gas station, no matter how big or small. Owners of independents, for example, may have more leeway to cut profits to pull in business, while warehouse clubs like Costco and Sam's Club go through so much gas that higher prices are reflected more quickly.
Just don't waste too much time searching for the best price. Cut your losses where necessary. Unless you're driving an RV, don't go too far out of your way in search of cheap gas. The fuel you'll waste outweighs the savings of a
few cents a gallon. Instead, check prices on gas-price monitoring sites like AAA Fuel Price Finder and GasBuddy.com before you leave home.
If an amusement park is part of your holiday-weekend plans, there are even some tricks to cut your admission prices by 50% or more. Try buying online. "Plenty of parks have some sort of an online discount," says Grant. Online discounts can be substantial -- and you'll save time waiting in
line at the gate, too. Universal Studios Orlando, for example, is currently running an "Early Birds Exclusives" promotion online that saves you $30 off the price of a two-day, two-park ticket.
By packing macaroni-n-cheese, you could save money at Six Flags. By bringing a specially marked box of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese gets an adult into the park for the kids' price of $29.99. Plenty of parks have similar promotions, so put in a phone call or check out the park's Web site.
If you are a member of any clubs, trade organizations and other groups, get ready to pull out your wallet and show those ID cards. Being part of these groups often comes with amusement park discounts. For example, Alumni of Arizona State University save $5 off admission to Sea World, for example, while AAA members get discounted admission to 19 parks, including Sesame Place, Busch Gardens and Hershey Park.
For more tips on summer travel on a budget, or other personal financial advice, click here.
By Kelli Grant