Tuesday, April 17, 2012

SAVING MONEY WHILE ON THE TRIP—Souvenirs and other things


April 17, 2012

I cannot think of a trip we’ve made to WDW that it hasn’t rained at least one day, so I always purchase several disposable rain ponchos at the local $1 Tree before leaving home.  As I said before they never fit back into the original bag, so I always pack Ziplocs for the ones we think we can re-use in the future.
Rain ponchos are not just for rain, they are great for water type rides and for when you suddenly discover that the temperature is dropping.  Even the lightest of poncho will help keep body heat in and keep you far warmer than doing without. At $1 tree you can get these for 2/$1 FAR cheaper than purchasing a poncho at WDW, although they are lighter weight and don’t have the Mickey icon on them of course.
I also pick up other things while I’m at $1 Tree for the trip.  Often they have cookies or other snacks in Disney shapes.   I also pick up small folding umbrellas, mending kits and glow in the dark necklaces and other glow in the dark goodies.  The need for the umbrellas, mending kits and snacks is obvious. 
The reason for the glow in the dark items are for treats for children either your own or, as we do.  Toward dark in the parks we start watching for very well behaved children.  Once we spot the children we approach their parents and ask if we may give them the items because we want to thank them for being so well behaved.  We never speak to the children without the parents’ permission.   Once we get it we tell the child that we want to thank them for being so good and give them the treat.  Since my husband looks like Santa Claus and we are generally at the park during the holiday season this makes the child feel extra special.
Many a time we’ve seen the children on the next day still wearing their prize and beaming from ear to ear.  It’s a little thing, but those smiles are worth millions to us.
If you are at $1 Tree alone and are traveling with children keep your eye open for special “souvenirs” for the kids.  I know several families that will secretly pack coloring books, stuffed animals, t-shirts and small toys with the Disney Characters that they have purchased at home on sale or from $1 tree.  Then Tinkerbell or some other favorite Disney Character (actually a spouse or older child while the other parent keeps the younger ones entertained) will mysteriously leave the gifts on beds or elsewhere for the kids to discover later.  I personally pick up adult size t-shirts and jackets on sale at home to wear in the parks rather than pay amusement park prices for such items at the park.
Also purchase your bandaids, aspirin/Tylenol, cold medicines, vitamins, Immodium, sunblock, anti itch medication and other similar over the counter meds and first aid kit items.  While you can purchase these at the parks and various resorts if needed while there they are FAR cheaper to get at home, preferably on sale with a coupon.  Plus we’ve found that if we remember to pack them there is less likelihood we will need them.  Kind of like the old saying about it only rains when you don’t take an umbrella.
When you venture to your local Wal-Mart, especially during the spring and summer look for hand held mister bottles with a battery powered fan on those.  Often these are under $5 at the local Wally World.  At Disney World the price will make you gasp and if you are down there in the hot part of the year, well that mist and fan certainly feel good.
Of course you will want to purchase some souvenirs while at the parks, but even that can be kept under control.  Many families I know purchase Disney Dollars ahead of time and designate a certain amount for each person to spend for souvenirs by giving them their amount in the Disney Dollars.  These can only be used there.  It’s a lot easier for a child to see they only have so many of those dollars to purchase things with and when they are all gone, they are gone.
Others I know limit souvenir purchasing to one certain day, that is where we fall.  We generally do our souvenir shopping on the day we got to Downtown Disney and then do all our shopping at the World of Disney store, because the annual pass gets us a discount there.  Some items, however, are park exclusive so if we see something we really like that is a park exclusive we will make an exception to that rule.  Into this category falls passholder exclusives as well. But we do stick tightly to our budget for souvenirs because if we don’t it would be VERY easy to spend way too much on all the delightful merchandise that is available everywhere.
Any items that you purchase in the park can be sent to your room for free from the store you purchase them at on any day but your departure day.  This is an absolutely wonderful service and truly a major perk of staying on site.  In the past we have even sent back to our room our backpack after we emptied it by including it in a sack with something we purchased.  The items have to be purchased by a certain time to be back to your room the same day, but that is generally not a problem.
On the backpack day we would not be needing the backpack the next day, so even though it was late in the day it didn’t matter that it might be the next afternoon before we got the pack back.
A word to the wise here.  Hands free is wonderful.  While fanny packs and back packs aren’t a true fashion accessory I’d wear either one on any day before I’d carry a purse of any sort.  Purses get lost, and yes even at the happiest place on earth things get stolen.  So keep your traveling throughout the park easy.  If you plan on eating all your meals in park, as on the dining plan, then a fanny pack for bandaids, aspirin and sunblock, nothing else to mess with.  Even the fanny pack can be a bother on certain rides when you must fasten a seat belt.  Keep traveling easy and you will enjoy your trip more.
Do you notice I keep mentioning sunblock?  You will be walking all day on asphalt, which reflects the sunshine and the sun at WDW seems to be more intense.  So slather the stuff on daily, refresh as needed.  If you are wearing shorts and/or sandals be sure and do you legs and feet.  Many a person ends up with a heat rash or sunburn on their ankles and calves when they don’t do this.
The heat rash is very itchy and uncomfortable, so try to avoid it at all costs.
Now for a very important reminder.  Camera, spare chips/sticks for storing the hundreds of photos you want to take, and BATTERIES.  Get these at home on sale and pack them with you.  Put spare batteries and memory chip in your camera case, a hip pocket or wherever  you can easily carry them no matter how good you think the batteries are in your camera.  There are so many things to take photos of the batteries will run out a lot faster than you expect  and batteries are EXPENSIVE at the World.  They sell/rent all sorts of camera equipment at the parks, but bringing it all from home is so much cheaper.
So there you have it, a lot of info on how to save money while traveling to Walt Disney World or any other vacation destination.  I’m certain I’ve probably missed a lot of helpful hints so hopefully some of you will add helpful hints to share with others while reading these posts in the comment sections.
Jan who says she hopes you have a Magical Disney trip in OK

SAVING MONEY WHILE ON THE TRIP—At the parks!—Food, Glorious Food

SAVING MONEY WHILE  ON THE TRIP—At the parks!—Food, Glorious Food
April 17, 2012
There are literally hundreds of ways to save money once you get to WDW. There is no way I could ever post them all here, but I will post the main ones my family uses. 

Food and beverage are the two biggest ways we save money.  So let’s go with these first.

If you are going down in a camper or a tent then by all means eat at least part of your meals every day at the campsite.  We generally eat at the camper for breakfast, and then pack snacks or a sandwich and drinks in a back pack to help cut down the desire to purchase foods in the park.

You can easily pack these foods and keep them cold with the help of a blue ice pack and either some newspaper or a towel.  I put our sandwiches and chips in Ziploc containers to help prevent crushing.  These along with a beverage we have at least partially frozen in our camper freezer and a blue ice are wrapped in a towel or newspaper and placed in the camera back pack. 
Be prepared to have your back pack viewed when entering the park so I generally do not wrap the top of the bundle, but lay a separate small towel or wash cloth over the top that can easily be removed so the inspector can see into the clear containers to see what’s in the pack.  We have never had an issue with taking food in this way.
One note I’d like to make here.  Keep it simple.  Keep the pack be it back or fanny light and easy to handle.  If you don’t want to pack food, then consider fanny packs, if that, only.  You want to keep it as simple as possible.  You are there to have fun, not die of exhaustion.  We pack a very light lunch, and sometimes send the pack back to the camper/room at some point after the food is consumed.
If you are traveling with a child that will fit in a stroller, by all means take your stroller.  Even consider purchasing a small cheap umbrella type stroller just for the trip.  A tired child is a cranky child, a cranky child makes for a cranky adult and then no one in your family, or in line with you is happy. 
This is considered the “happiest place on earth”, but it doesn’t mean it is immune from theft.  So NEVER leave anything of value hanging on your stroller while you go into a show or ride.  It just might not be there when you get back.  Security is great at WDW, lost and found is also REALLY good, but they see MILLIONS of guests a year and they can’t be everywhere at all times.  So be responsible for you and yours.
If you are flying down you can do something similar.  We generally fly Southwest Airlines and make one of our free  checked suitcases be one of those soft sided rolling ice chests.  On the trip to and from WDW the ice chest is packed with soft clothing such as socks or underwear inside clean plastic bags.  Once at the resort we unpack the ice chest and fill it with ice from the free ice machine and foods purchased at the gift shop.  Even though the foods at the gift shops can be a bit high, they are still cheaper than a meal in the park. 
One of our carryon bags for the flight down is generally a snack bag filled with goodies that will pass inspection by TSA that we’ve purchased ahead of time on sale.  No liquids of course, but things like raisins, candies (no chocolate as it melts so easily), cookies, snack crackers etc. 
This allows us to have a snack on the plane or while waiting for a layover on the flight each way if there is a delay as well as for the parks. 
We also pack a large assortment of Ziploc bags in all the sizes.  These come in handy for a huge variety of reasons that I’ll go into later.
Whether we stay in our camper or a resort we always pack Britta self-filtering water bottles for each person in our party.  Trust me this is something you really want to do.  While Walt Disney World is a wonderful place their water is HORRIBLE! The cost of a bottle of water, generally Dasani, is also quite high.  However, they will give you FREE ice water at all the concessions.  This we put in the water bottles and all is fine. 
You can also take packets of water flavorings with you for a variety of drinks.  Simply put the free water in your bottle, then filter it back into the cup and add the flavorings.  DON’T put the flavorings in your Britta.
We clearly label whose bottle is whose because if someone gets a cold or flu you don’t want to share the germs.  I also pack extra filters in case this happens so we don’t re-introduce then germs to ourselves once we are feeling better.
Carrying a water bottle can be made easier by planning ahead.  We have various bottle carriers we use.  My favorite is one that is on a swivel and slides either over a belt or into a pocket to hang from the pocket/belt.  It is basically a flat stick with a swivel clip on it.
Others we have are Epcot ones we purchased for our “souvenir” on one trip that adjust to any water bottle, narrow strapped ones that have a simple ring on it that only fit certain sizes and carbineer ones.  The only one we have been disappointed with was the carbineer one.  It seems to be that it is only for larger necked bottles.  Ones like Ozarka fall right out of it.  But it works fine for our Britta.
It’s only natural to want to try foods while in the park.  PB&J isn’t near as appetizing when you smell burgers frying. So scheduling your actual in park meals can become a real money saver.  We generally eat at least one meal a day in the parks or at a resort.
Lunches are cheaper than dinners and often they are the same foods.  So eating a late lunch might hold you until you get back to your camper or room to eat, especially if you have snacks in a back pack or fanny pack.  We eat our main in park sit down meal at the end of the lunch period.  That way a burger, hot dog, or salad, that stays the same in price throughout the day will do well for dinner much later in the day if we decide to eat two meals in the park that day.
Staying on site is great for going back to the room to rest, something I recommend if you are traveling with people of all ages who are use to a daily nap. If you do this you can actually schedule all your meals at your camper/room.  However, you will lose time due to the travel to and from the parks  so if you are very limited on time then you need to personally weigh the pros and cons of both.  Many a child has had a nap in a stroller in the parks.  If you are a nursing mother there are nursing stations, baby care locations and family restrooms throughout the parks.  I personally have sneaked in many a short nap in Carousel of Progress (hey, it’s a long slow dark ride in a comfortable seat  in the cool and it does not change from year to year.
Meals other than the buffets can be shared easily.  My husband and I split most of our meals, sometimes purchasing an extra side or a dessert or appetizer, but generally we simply split the meal. 
When considering a burger for lunch or dinner check out the burger places that have a relish bar to go with the burgers, chicken sandwiches and such.  Cosmic Rays is one such place, they have sautéed mushrooms, onions, pickles, lettuce and all the other fixings you can think of.  When sharing a burger meal you can easily cut the burger in half and build it the way you want on each half.  I for one put just about everything on a burger, so a half burger fully dressed is plenty of food to fill me up.  My husband just puts basics on his, but he eats fries and I don’t.  So splitting the meal works very well for us.
If eating at the buffets, which you cannot split,  consider going in at the end of the lunch time period, then you will end up being there as they are putting out the dinner foods and pay at the lunch price. 
Getting free water and filtering it through your Britta will save you considerably on the meal over getting a soda pop or tea, both contain ice made with their local water, which can really change the taste of a beverage.
If you really don’t want to pay the price for a meal at a restaurant, but really want to see the inside of the restaurant then consider going in for a shared appetizer or dessert.  There is no set rule that you have to get a full meal to go into the restaurant.  Trust me some of the restaurants are well worth making the reservations just to soak up the ambiance.
You can make your ADRs (advanced dining reservations) as much as something like 145 days prior to your visit.  Be aware that some restaurants will require a “charge card” number to make these reservations.  I have used a debit card for this on more than one occasion.  This is because they often have no shows, so you could be charged a small fee if you don’t show for your reservation.  If you call and cancel the reservation—free phones around for you to make/cancel reservations—scattered around, or you can do it from your cell. 
We seldom make dining reservations far in advance when it is just two or three of us.  Generally there are enough cancellations we can get any reservation we want a day or so ahead of time.  HOWEVER, if you are traveling with a large group, a single traveler OR MUST eat in a certain restaurant then I recommend making the reservations early. 
A tip to single travelers.  All the restaurants have a LIMITED number of tables for single diners.  If you call to get a reservation and can’t get one.  Hang up and call back and ask for a table for two, often you can get a table then.  They will not charge you for the “no show” of the second diner.   They will only charge you if you simply don’t show at all.,
Another way to save money is to purchase children’s meals at the fast food/counter locations.  Often the portion is plenty large enough for an adult.  There are also numerous snack food vendors all around the parks, a quick turkey leg or a churro will often be enough to take the edge off your hunger.  By all means try the Mickey Bars. A personal favorite.
There are other ways to get discounts on the meals as well.  One is the annual pass I previously mentioned.  Only one ADULT in your party needs to have the annual pass to get the discount for up to 10 people.  The annual pass discount percentage and the restaurants it is good at are all listed on the All Ears website I listed in a previous post.
They also have a dining card called “Tables in Wonderland  This gets you a larger discount than the annual pass does and at more restaurants, during different time periods, however it has an automatic 15% gratuity added to it for every restaurant meal, I do not believe it charges it for the counter service meals.  This comes with a fee to purchase it, I believe the current purchase requires and annual pass and $75, but I could be very wrong about that. Again the complete info for this card is listed on All Ears. For two of us eating the way we do this card is a break even for us.  When there are three of us and/or we are traveling more than once in the year that it is good for then it can be a money saver.  For large parties it could be a good money saver, depending on where you eat and when.  You will need to do the math and look at your dining plans to see if it is a cost saver for you.
If you plan on eating at Rain Forest Café, Yak and Yetti table service and T-Rex then you might want to consider getting a Landry’s Select restaurant card, previously titled the “Safari Club”. The card comes with perks like immediate seating when you arrive at the restaurant and points to apply to future meals as well discounts in their gift shops. 
I do not know the current cost of the card as I have had mine for numerous years, even though we have no Landry’s restaurant near where I live we always use it when visiting WDW and now when we go to Branson, MO.  There are Landry’s all over the US and the card is good at all of them.
If you are staying in a resort other than Ft. Wilderness they all have a food court of some sort.  At these food courts you can purchase a refillable mug good for that trip and that resort only.  If you drink a lot of soda pop, coffee or cocoa it is well worth the price to purchase one for each family member. 
It’s been a few years since we’ve been to WDW, but when we were last there the Animal Kingdom had a refillable one day only glass as well.  Travel note: in the past there have been no straws at the Animal Kingdom for the safety of the animals.
Remember those Ziplocs I mentioned packing.  Well one of the many uses for them is for the excess food you will find you have during the day, not from the buffets of course.  Remember I said the portions are large at Walt Disney World.  We often find we have something left over.  Carrot sticks, raisins, a roll, chips, something.  Into a Ziploc they go and we munch on them later in the day.
While on the subject of Ziplocs now might be a good time to mention some of the other uses we take them for.
1.       To corral small souvenirs together to help prevent loss.
2.       Large ones work well to put cameras in to protect them (and other electronics) from rain or moisture on the water rides.  We’ve shot many a photo/movie through Ziplocs in our various trips to the World.
3.       Carrying first dry, then wet socks for the days it rains or you get wet on a water ride.  The fastest way to get blisters is to wear wet socks, avoid blisters at all costs. They can really put a bummer in your trip.
4.       For carrying spare clothing for small children.
5.       To pack snacks in a back pack or fanny pack.
6.       For a small first aid kit for the packs.
7.       To repackage a rain poncho after you use it—they NEVER fit back in the original package.
8.       To pack dirty clothing in for the trip home.
9.       To pack detergent in if you choose to do laundry while there, be prepared to have your detergent powder inspected at the airport if you take it with you.  Far cheaper than purchasing it from the vending machines at the laundry (available at all resorts and the campground). I always pack ours in an outside pocket that I’ve put a zip tie (we use a zip tie on all zippers on all luggage when flying—don’t forget to pack extras for the trip home AND to have some method to cut them open in one unsealed pocket on a checked bag) on that the TSA could easily remove to inspect the “white powder” in my checked luggage.
10.   We pack all liquids that travel in our checked luggage in double Ziplocs to prevent leakage in luggage.
11.   For placing foods in the ice chest in a hotel room.
12.   Food storage for things like donuts purchased in the gift shop.
13.   Homemade wet wipes for sticky fingers and faces throughout the day.  A damp paper towel or wash cloth in a Ziploc is very handy to have for those little oops in life.
These are just a few of the ideas we use them for, but you get the general idea.  Ziplocs are essential when traveling on any trip, and especially WDW.
Remember when planning your trip to do a price comparison from purchasing your meals a la carte and the complete dining packages, sometimes the complete package is far cheaper.
Remember, no one says you have to eat at a certain time while on vacation.  Make your meal times flexible and avoid long lines at the eating establishments. 
So now you are fed.  On to my next savings suggestions.
Jan who loves to try at least one new restaurant each trip to Walt Disney World in OK


April 17, 2012
Sorry for the long delay in getting this post up life has been just that life. 
We generally drive to Walt Disney World from Oklahoma because we prefer our camper and staying in Ft. Wilderness.  We have found that the cost of driving, for two of us, is almost identical to the cost of flying two of down.  However, when my son travels with us it is definitely cheaper to drive, because of the way we do it.
There is a type of camping called “boondocking”  I’ve wrote about it in my travel blogs previously, but for those of you who haven’t read those blogs a brief description is you sleep in your camper in a Wal-Mart, Cracker Barrel or other compatible parking lots for free.  These lots are generally well lit and have a security patrol.  Not to mention they are generally right at the exits from major highways and therefore give you easy on easy off access.
The companies benefit from your staying so it is the proverbial win-win for all involved.  How do the companies benefit?  You stop and sleep in a Wal-Mart parking lot are you not going to go into the store to at least use the restroom, are you going to look around and maybe buy something?  You buy something they benefit. I often wait to purchase things like bread and other perishables for the trip until we stop at a Wal-Mart to boondock.  That way I’m not paying “extra” but they are benefitting from my sleeping in their parking lot. It is my way of saying thank you for the use of a safe place to sleep.
The main thing to do is check ahead of time if the store allows it.  Most 24 hour Wal-Marts do, but not all.  Some states prohibit it and of course stores near large amusement centers forbid it.  One Wal-Mart we generally stop at on our way to WDW does not allow overnight  camping in their parking lot, HOWEVER, the Sam’s Club next door does.  It all has to do parking space availability. There are lists on Wal-Mart RVing, boondocking and such on yahoogroups.  Many camping groups discuss this periodically too.  They will often have lists of where you can and can’t stay in their files.  If in doubt call the store ahead of time.  We’ve even stayed in lots that we’ve been previously been told weren’t available simply because I called and the manager agrees to let us do so that one night.  Helpful hint: if you purchase your Rand McNally large road atlas from Wal-Mart or Sam’s club they have a chart in them that show where the Wal-Mart’s and Sam’s are.  This chart has if they have fuel and if so what types, if they are open 24 hours and of course where they are located.  EXTREMELY helpful  when boondocking.
Please remember to not abuse this privilege.  This is strictly a pull in and sleep situation, not a camping location.  Don’t pull out the charcoal grill, set up the lawn chairs and run out the awnings.  It is for sleeping one night only. 
Also do not block any drives or delivery areas.  Note where the semis will be coming in to make their deliveries and do not cause them any problems.
We generally pull in just before dark and park on the outer rim of the lot.  Normally we don’t even run the slides out because we are just there to sleep.  But if there is a reason that we need to run the slides out we park where our slides are out over the grass at the edge of the lot, not into the lot.  Such times would be, someone forgot to plan their wardrobe for the trip down where they would not have to get into the drawers that are blocked when the slides are in  and suddenly find themselves in urgent need of clean underwear or socks.  Once the items are retrieved from the drawers we run the slides back in.  We want to cause as little chaos as possible for the stores that are so generous about letting us sleep there for free. We also seldom disconnect unless there is a reason we truly NEED the truck to be free and clear of the fifth wheel.
You can also sometimes pay a small fee to sleep in hospital parking lots.  One trip we slept at a fair grounds for next to nothing.  We’ve also slept at truck stops (very noisy with the semis there), rest areas on the highway (not recommended, but if you are very drowsy far better than having a wreck) and many other spots.  Safety is your first consideration, so we generally go with the Wal-Marts that we know have night time security patrol.
If you feel the need to camp in a real campground instead of boondocking then look into the National Parks Pass to stay for half price in the National Parks and Corp of Engineer parks.  If someone in your party is over 62 this pass will cost you $10 for a lifetime.  If you are under 62 the price is much higher and an annual cost.  I’ve written more about the America the Beautiful Park Pass in previous posts. 
If the National Parks pass won’t work for you then look into acquiring a KOA or Good Sam’s (not Sam’s club) card for discounts at their campgrounds.  Both give discounts and/or free nights camping. 
Whether it is the Parks pass or the campground discount cards you need to weigh the price of the card against the savings you will reap for the trip both to and from the World.  Sometimes it will not pay for itself.
Camping not your cuppa?  Many hotels have discount/loyalty cards as well. Check those out.  Also many charge cards have discounts for certain hotels, as does AAA, AARP, and insurance cards.
Also check into discount websites like Expedia or Travelocity for discounts on hotels as well.
Flying?  If you can’t get someone to take you the airport, then check the yellow pages, your insurance company and all the organizations like AAA you belong to for discounted airport parking. 
When we are driving down we also travel with X amount of cash with us, because there are many fuel stations that have gas as much as $.12 a gallon cheaper if you pay cash.  Since we do not use charge cards any longer it’s not a problem for us.  Some stations will consider a debit card cash, others consider them a credit card.  Most places, in the past, considered travelers checks cash, but now many places will not even accept them.  So cash in hand is the best option for us.  We divide the cash up to avoid a major loss/theft in various places.  We use the debit card on the special travel checking account we have when we can and still get the cash discount, but otherwise we pay with cash.

By a special account I mean that is all we use this account for.  We put the vacation money in that account prior to leaving and that’s all that ever goes into this account.  It is at an entirely different bank than our household budget account, so if some evil person steals that card, or hacks into the account they will not be able to access ALL our money.
As we travel we eat a lot of cold meals at the camper in parking lots and rest areas.  We will generally, however, have one hot meal a day at a fast food place that has a very large parking lot nearby that we can park the fifth wheel  in and walk to the food establishment.  This has been included in our trip food budget.  I’ve also been know in the past to heat foods in the sun on the dashboard in a food saver vacuum sealed bag, or wrapped in foil placed on the hot truck engine.  Whether we dine out or heat in this manner we have at least one hot meal a day while traveling.  It just boosts the morale.
Remember the mypoints I mentioned in the last post on this subject?  Those gift cards you get from mypoints can be used to pay for your fuel or for that hot meal each day.  That’s free money for your trip.
If you are traveling with children another thing to consider is the “are we there yet?” syndrome.  Kids get bored quickly.  Download audiobooks from the library for free for them to listen to, if you have a travel dvd player record movies for it long before leaving, also free from the library—I recommend Disney movies to set the mood.
Various travel games, a road map they can write on and follow the route on that is all their own is good as well. You can get free maps from AAA if you belong to them.
My son recently told me one of his favorite things while traveling on the long trips as a kid was “the rest area box”.  This was a box that contained things like jump ropes, Frisbies, balls, sidewalk chalk for hop scotch and such.  It only came out of the trunk when we stopped at rest areas.  The kids were REQUIRED to choose an activity from the box and do it. Like jump rope all the way around the picnic area, play a game of hop scotch or something similar while I laid out the lunch stuff.  Afterwards Mom and Dad would play catch or throw the Frisbie with them for awhile.  While this adds a bit of time to the length of the trip, it adds a LOT of quiet to the car/truck as you get back on the road.  Quiet is PRICELESS!
We also schedule stops along the way both to and from the resorts, especially on the way home.  It helps to ease the let down of the trip of a lifetime being over. Of course we watch for discounts for these stops as well. 
One of our constant travel companions is the AAA Tourbooks for the areas we are traveling through.  Often there are free or nearly free sites listed in the books that can be truly interesting.  On our Mt. Rushmore trip we found many interesting FREE sites.  I was always a “Little House on the Prairie” books/tv show fan so discovering I could visit reconstructed locations where the books took place was fun for me.  Large sculptures along the roadside were another favorite, as was Walls Drug.  If you do not belong to AAA, which I highly recommend you do if you travel any at all, then perhaps you have a friend or family member that could pick these up for you for free.
On the Disney trips we stop at the beach where Jaws was filmed, Civil War battle fields and graveyards to research the family genealogy.  These are generally free or we find discounts (like the National Parks Pass) for the places we stop.  Even driving out over the ocean on a very long bridge just to see what we could see is fun.  If the budget allows we might stop in Gulfport, MS and go on a submarine tour.  Whatever we do, we always include these stops to help break the travel up.
I am certain there are more ways to save on the travel part.  I’m definitely open for suggestions from all you kind folks.  Thanks for your continued reading.
Jan who can’t wait to be back on the road to Walt Disney World from OK.