“We’re just going to have to play it by ear and see how it goes,” said Shanna.
America’s love affair with the road could be running out of gas. The road trip was once the cheapest way for families, college students and frugal travelers to vacation. Now, these road warriors are feeling the pain at the pump.
And it could get worse. The U.S. Energy Information Administration says that the average price of gas could surpass $4 per gallon this summer. In 2008, the last time there was such a dramatic spike, fewer travelers took to the roads, according to AAA.
This time, Sarah W. Caron, for one, is turning her family’s vacation into a staycation. Caron and her husband had wanted to take their two young children to Disney World this summer. But “once we figured out the cost of gas for the trip from Connecticut to Florida in our SUV, it simply became cost-prohibitive,” she said.
You don’t need to give up so easily, though, road-trippers. With a few cost-saving strategies, you can still make it to Disney World. Here’s some expert advice on the best strategies for hitting the road without taking too big a hit to the pocketbook.
Tap into technology. The smart road-tripper uses a smart phone to find out where to get cheap gas, using apps such as Gas Buddy and AAA’s TripTik Mobile. If you don’t have a smart phone, no worries — just log on to Web sites such as GasPriceWatch.com, GasBuddy.com, FuelMeUp.com, BillShrink.com and Gasprices.Mapquest.com from any computer.
Planning your route carefully is the best way to save money, says AAA Mid-Atlantic spokesman John Townsend. Log onto AAA’s Fuelcostcalculator.com to get an estimate of how much you’ll spend on gas, then use it to plan the most direct route to your destination.
Choose your vehicle carefully. Leave the gas-guzzling SUV at home. Renting a car might be cheaper. But not just any car. Carrie Meo, director of fixed operations for Darling’s, a chain of automotive dealerships, recommends working with your rental company to find the most fuel-efficient option. “Sacrificing an amenity like power-adjustable seats may be worth it if the car has a higher miles-per-gallon rating,” she said.
Consider a membership with a pay-as-you-go car company. The daily rate at Zipcar and Connect by Hertz, for instance, entitles you to 180 miles without paying for gas or insurance.
Time for a tuneup. If you take your own car, tune it up, change the oil, top off the fluids and inflate the tires.
The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that fixing a car that’s out of tune or has failed an emissions test can improve its gas mileage by an average of 4 percent. Keeping your tires properly inflated boosts your mileage by 3.3 percent. And using the manufacturer’s recommended grade of motor oil will cause a 1 to 2 percent jump.