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How to keep your summer trip from becoming a rip

Cheryl Clock/The Canadian Press

Summer vacation. The planning, the dreaming and the subsequent memories are what sustain us during the doldrums of the less glamorous months of the year. But bills can add up.

The Globe asked readers how they save when they hit the road. Here are some of the savviest suggestions:

"Purchase inexpensive toys for the kids in advance. Dole them out over the course of the trip rather than all at once. This will help you resist the temptation to buy your kids expensive toys at the stops along the way. Works great at the cottage, too!"

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"Drive instead of fly. We regularly drive from Alberta to B.C. or Saskatchewan, and while it takes a little longer, we save money and see more scenery.

"Bring a cooler full of food from home. We find that mountain towns are very expensive for food. We pack a large cooler that plugs into our car's cigarette lighter (and stays cold the whole drive) and bring all of the key perishable items we will need to eat while on our trip. If we are camping, we book a powered site and run an extension cord to our cooler, keeping it powered our whole trip."

- Tips from unidentified online readers

"Look for free things to do. There are many, many free things to do in every city, town and village in Canada. It may take a bit of searching, but the savings are well worth it."
– Venessa Lazurko, Edmonton

"Camping. The definition is pretty much going somewhere and pretending you're broke. So go there, pretend you're broke and your biggest expense is food. Your electric and water bill is nil, you just have to pay for your campsite."
– Kris Polsom, online

"Eat at off-the-beaten track restaurants with cheap, big portions and keep the leftovers for another meal."
– Laura, online

"My family and I enjoy getting away for a quick weekend of camping. We choose recreation sites, rather than provincial park sites, as the rec sites are free and just as beautiful, and more times than not, fewer campers per site."
– Jess Shannon, Cambridge Bay, Nunavut

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"Leaving the kids at home ... oh wait ..."
– David, online

"I use Priceline or Hotwire to book hotels. I can often save at least 50 per cent. Pack snacks for the car to save on restaurants."
– Marc, online

"People forget how quickly eating out adds up. Trips are usually a costly endeavour and I quickly learned that packing sandwiches and snacks is a great way to save big money. Not only that, but when going for longer trips I make sure to get a room with a kitchenette so that I can make food rather than go out for dinner. It's easy to spend $60 or more a day on food – but eating in can save more than half of that!"
– Victoria Pijacki, Ottawa

"Look for packages online that allow you to visit multiple locations for a single price – we just found a 5-day pass for Chicago attractions for about 65 per cent of what these would have cost individually."
– Teetomm, online

"We pack lunches, picnics and take drinks and car snacks whenever possible. Nothing eats up cash faster than stopping at a restaurant lunch or even just a snack and a drink. It's often healthier too! We have found wonderful lakeside parks to picnic giving us both lunch and a bit of an exercise break from driving."
– Holly Minden, Brampton, Ont.

"For true 'away' family trips, we:
1. Research the destination – find off-peak specials, joint promotions between participating organizations like a tourist destination or a club membership and local restaurant or hotel, read consumer reviews about non-essential fees;
2. Reduce reliance on restaurants – pack snacks, bring bottled beverages, a cooler (if appropriate) and order take-out rather than dine-in food;
3. Get going early – save time and money by avoiding lineups, traffic jams and other delays that enhance the urge to purchase impulsively to pacify bored family members ..."
– Sue Biggs, Burlington, Ont.

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