Road tripping for Thanksgiving? Here are expert money-saving tips.

Photo (c) Canetti -- Getty Images

Did you know stop-and-go traffic can reduce your gas mileage by 40%?

Going somewhere for the Thanksgiving holiday weekend? You won’t be alone – not by a longshot. This Thanksgiving, 80% of travelers plan to drive to their destination, according to

A contributing factor to the high number of drivers is that of the 63% of travelers who have experienced recent flight delays, nearly all of them (92%) are now considering travel by car. 

So, for those of you who are opting for a holiday road trip this Thanksgiving, you’ll need to be prepared for higher gas prices, but as ConsumerAffairs found out, there are some ways to shave off a few dollars as part of your travel costs to help keep everything in line.

Saving money on rental cars

Don’t rent at the airport: Scott Lieberman, Founder of TouchdownMoney, says that many consumers aren’t aware that airport rentals can cost more. “It can be worth it to Uber/taxi to a different rental car location,” he told ConsumerAffairs.

Consider insurance options: “Rather than purchasing rental car insurance from your rental car provider, which can be a rushed and confused process after you land, consider opting for the rental car damage protection your travel insurance provider offers,” Lauren Gumport, vice president of Communications & Brand at Faye Travel Insurance suggests. 

Gumport says that rental car damage protection can be offered for less than $7 a day and adds in everything from collision to vandalism, natural disaster, or theft related to the rental car.

Laura Longero at said there’s another route that car renters can take – their credit card.

“If you want additional peace of mind, get insurance for your rental car through a credit card company. Many times, credit cards cover rental cars, so talk to the bank that issued your card, but make sure you pay for the entire rental period on the car whose travel insurance you intend to use,” she said.

Lieberman reminds credit card users that credit cards may not cover damage you do to others. Rather, damage to other cars is covered by either your personal insurance or a policy you purchase with the rental car company.

Saving money on gas

Apps: If you’re driving over the holidays, here are a few tips on how to save money on gas, courtesy of Todd Stearn, founder and CEO of TheMoneyManual.

“Use an app like Waze to find the route with the least traffic -- even if it takes a few more miles to get there – because stop-and-go traffic can lower your fuel efficiency by up to 40%,” he told us.

He says that the GasBuddy and Upside apps are a must, and strongly urges using both because you’ll double your money-saving chances. 

Remove heavy items from your vehicle: Say what? Yep, Steam says that removing heavy things like golf clubs from your trunk could add a few more MPG to your trip, especially for smaller vehicles.

Avoid heavy traffic times: Forrest McCall, personal finance and travel expert, say MakingMoneyandTraveling, told ConsumerAffairs that one surefire way to save money on gas during holiday travel is to try to avoid heavy traffic times and the gas-guzzling engine idling that goes with it.

“This might mean leaving a day earlier or later than the busiest days. In addition to the added danger, speeding will also reduce your gas mileage and cost you more to get to your destination,” he said. His estimate for doing that could be as much as a 10% savings. 

And what are the heaviest travel times by car? Here’s what the AAA says:

  • Wed. 11/23 - Best to travel 11:00 AM - 8:00 PM
  • Thurs. 11/24 - Best to travel 11:00 AM - 3:00 PM
  • Fri. 11/25 - Best to travel 4:00 PM – 8:00 PM
  • Sat. 11/26 - Best to travel 4:00 PM – 8:00 PM
  • Sun 11/27 - Best to travel 4:00 PM – 8:00 PM

Peak congestion in certain metro areas should be considered, too. AAA estimates that some corridors through Atlanta will be up 105%, Los Angeles 144%, Chicago 99%, and New York City 158% over non-holiday periods. AAA offers a complete rundown of those traffic snarls here.

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