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The Coupon Lady: Save money when traveling

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Although my husband and I are not locals, we are no strangers to the idea of taking road trips during major area events.

My husband is from Talladega, Ala. Talladega is famous for three things: Talladega College, The Helen Keller School for the Blind and Deaf, and NASCAR.

My in-laws live just miles from Talladega Superspeedway. Since there are only a few major entrances and exits to the raceway, their main road stays packed with bumper-to-bumper traffic during the entire race weekend. My in-laws have two choices during the event – stay in and ride it out, or take a vacation.

If you aren’t planning on attending any of the Masters Tournament activities, then chances are you are headed out of town this week to avoid the crowd.

If you are traveling by car, then you know that gas can be one of your biggest expenses. The smartphone app Gas Buddy is free and will help you find the cheapest gas when you need to fill up. To help get the best fuel efficiency possible, make sure your tires are properly inflated and if you can, get your car tuned up and have the alignment checked.

Since roof racks can decrease fuel efficiency, try not to use them unless absolutely necessary.

If you have small kids, keeping them entertained during the trip is a necessity for any parent’s sanity. Amazon has a basic TV with DVD player that fits on the back of a headrest for as low as $60 for a single TV or dual set for around $100 shipped.

I also pack learning toys such as the Leapsters or Leappads. I also make sure to pack headphones for each child so mom and dad are free to listen to the radio or talk to each other.

If a TV is out of the question, then I suggest making each child a travel bag that includes crayons, markers, note pads, stickers, books and an assortment of happy meal or dollar toys and travel games. You could also buy a few new dollar items and bring those out along the way to keep the children entertained.

Any parent knows Murphy’s Law goes into effect twice over when you go on vacation, so it’s always nice to have some emergency supplies on hand.

To be prepared for anything, you can make your own emergency travel kit to store in the car. You can use samples gathered from couponing or easily find items in most dollar stores.

To store your items, you need an empty baby wipes box or a bag. In your container, include two large Ziploc bags for trash or carsickness, a travel pack of baby wipes for spills and messy hands, hand sanitizer or antibacterial wipes for bathrooms, travel-sized sunscreen and bugspray, bandages, tissues, paper or note cards, pen, safety pin, tweezers for splinters, hair elastic and travel hairspray for mommy, a small brush, emergency cash of $20 or less, travel-size air freshener for the room and car, a roll of quarters and a package of AA batteries for electronics and cameras. You might also want to add small packets of aspirin or Tylenol for the trip.

Another budget buster when traveling is snacks, especially when they come from a convenience store. I usually make up a small cooler filled with drinks such as water, soda or juices and snacks including granola bars, graham crackers and healthy chips.

If I have a longer trip planned, I try to add a few sandwiches and carrot sticks, sliced cucumbers and fresh strawberries or grapes. Homemade trail mix is also a good snack food for car riders. With fare like this, you won’t be tempted to buy fast food.

At your destination, check out Web sites including Living Social, Mamapedia, Groupon and Amazon Local for deals on restaurants, entertainment and even hotels.

Use apps to score deals on hotels to ensure you get the best rate. Sometimes you can get hotels to match rates when you show them the deals available online.

Also check out hotel lobbies for coupons and coupon booklets for the local area.

I hope you all have safe travels and make some great memories with your families this week.


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