Gas-Saving Tips for Vacation Season

Pumping Gas (photo credit under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 license)
Pumping Gas (photo credit under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 license)

My wife and I put a lot of miles on our cars, especially during the vacation season.  Despite the high prices for fuel, it is much more economical for us to take a trip in the car than it is to fly somewhere.  Also, we see so much more of the countryside while driving than we can if we fly from place to place.

Given the trending of gas prices toward ever-higher dollar amounts, many people are using more and more of their vacation budget on gas. While no one seems to be able to make gas cheap again, and I’m certain that the trend will continue to rise, there are still some things you can do to help save on gas this vacation season. Here are some gas-saving tips you should use to help reduce your fuel budget as much as possible.

Slow Up, Speed Down

When you are on the road, slow down a little when you are going up hills and pick back up to the speed limit when going downhill.  This is said to save fuel because your car has to work much harder going uphill (especially if you are using air conditioning and have luggage and multiple passengers), whereas gravity is your friend going downhill.

Many times, I’ll even pop the car’s transmission into neutral and let it roll down a long downhill section to let the engine fall to an idle speed, but only follow that suggestion if you can make the gear change safely, and if it makes sense.  I’ve seen people accidentally jerk the steering wheel while trying to change gears.  Also, if the hill is too long and steep, you may overheat your brakes keeping your car slowed to the speed limit.

I am in no way advocating that you should ever drive over the speed limit.  In fact, speaking of speed, observing the speed limit and not speeding also saves gas. It’s safer, too.

Know When to Turn Off the AC

While traveling in the heat without air conditioning can be downright dangerous, there are times when you can turn it off to save fuel. For example, turning off the AC when driving uphill can reduce the power pull on your engine by quite a bit, sources say. Of course, you can leave the fans going and the residual cooling effect lasts for a few minutes. When you’re on the level or going downhill, turn the AC back on.

Tire Care

If your tires are worn, get them rotated before your trip or, if they are very worn, get them replaced.

Proper air pressure is very important.  Make sure your tires are aired up to the manufacturer’s specifications  Look at the inside of the driver’s side door if you are unsure as to your tires’ PSI (pounds per square inch).  It should be labeled there.  Adding too much or too little air can both be a problem, so if you are in doubt, have your mechanic do it.

Vehicle Check-up

Before your vacation, get your car thoroughly looked over. Make sure everything is running as efficiently as possible. Efficiency in your engine means greater efficiency on fuel usage. Check the oil level or have it changed if it is time.  Get a “tune up” if needed, and have all the fluids checked.  This is a great time to have any necessary work done on the tires.

Travel Light

As mentioned above, a lot of excess cargo can really draw on the engine’s power. It’s said that every 100 pounds added to your car’s weight will decrease the gas mileage by 1 percent.

Try to be careful to use lightweight baggage carriers (such as duffel bags rather than heavy suitcases), and only pack the minimum necessities for your trip.

How You Drive

Have you ever ridden in a car with someone who has a difficult time regulating the accellerator?  They speed up, slow down, speed up, slow down, even while cruising a long flat straightaway.  OMG!  Use your cruise control, or something.

Don’t be that guy.  When you hit the accelerator pedal, that’s when your car is using the most gas. So try to cruise at a smooth speed.

Also, avoid the speed up, brake fast pattern that so many drivers fall into. Get up to cruising speed smoothly, cruise at a steady speed, and when you need to stop, coast down to the stop as much as possible without braking hard. Keep the ride as smooth as possible to save on fuel.

Finding the Perfect Weekend Getaway

romantic-weekend-getawayFinding the perfect weekend getaway can take some special planning and pre-arranging.  If you don’t take the necessary steps to plan for your weekend getaway, you’ll end up watching the weekends blow by until the opportunity has passed.

Do you have any thoughts of getting away for a weekend “sometime”?  Sometime never comes.  Just stop whatever you’re doing, get your calendar out, and figure out which weekends are available for your weekend getaway.  If you are married, you may need to sit your spouse down and clear a weekend in your calendars, together.  Just find a weekend that you can block out for your time away.

All that’s left, now, is to figure out what you want to do, and where you want to go for your weekend getaway.  If you are seeking the perfect weekend getaway, there are many ways to achieve that goal.

The first and most important thing to do is to hone in on what you want to do. Once you are clear about that part, the next steps become easier. Sometimes you are in the mood for a relaxing vacation getaway and other times you are in the mood for some serious challenges.

When you are planning for a 2 or 3 day weekend, it makes the most sense to stay somewhat close to home.  The last thing you need is to spend your weekend running through airports, haggling with rental car agents, or flagging down taxis.  Take a look at the 200 mile radius around where you are.  I know that for those of us living in the Pacific Northwest, the opportunities are endless.    I’m sure that you’ll find multiple options and opportunities for amazing getaways in your area, as well.

Think About the Type of Weekend Getaway You Want

There are many relaxing types of weekend getaways:

* Beach getaways
* Lake front cabins in the woods in spring
* Spa retreats
* Boating getaways

And there are dozens of supercharged weekend getaways as well; here are just a few:

* Skiing
* Mountain biking
* Rock climbing
* Horseback riding
* Surfing

Consider the Lodging Type

Next, pick the type of lodging you want. Think out of the box and off the beaten path for this one. There are hundreds of old inns and even historic barns that have been refurbished for you to stay at, whether you are traveling romantically as a couple, with your children, or with close friends.

campingYou may chose to search a site like to find a good hotel or you might decide to use to find a room in someones home that they will rent out for a night or two.  Another option is the site,, where they specialize in entire homes to rent.  Maybe you can even locate a mansion that utilizes part of its old historic rooms as a weekend getaway dream.

If camping and outdoor activities are your thing, search the internet for state and/or national parks in your area.  You’ll likely find a myriad of options for great camping getaways.

Think Outside of the Box

Once you have discovered what you want from your weekend getaway and what type of lodging you wish to stay in, it is so much easier to decide on a location. Many individuals start with the location and then look for activities and lodging. However, if you think outside the box on this, you will be pleasantly surprised.

sunset-sailboatsAs far as internet searches go, you will find that you have more options that are clear-cut and well defined when you search for specific things such as, “horseback riding spa resort.” Your search will bring the locations that are specifically geared to what you wish to do on your weekend getaway.

For information, of course, use the internet, but also ask friends, family members, colleagues, and even people you chat with in line at the grocery store. You will find the most amazing tidbits of information in the oddest of places.

Seek the advice and expertise of a travel agent, go online, get information on social media and blogs, and even go to the library.

Finding the perfect weekend getaway may take a little effort, but in the end, it is so worth the time.

Best Phone Apps for Travel – Gas Buddy

Gas Buddy Phone App

Gas Buddy Phone AppWe just returned from a week in southern California.  We drove a total distance of about 2750 miles from Washington state to Indio, CA and back.  We also did a little driving around the Indio/Palm Springs area while at our condo down there.

During the trip, there were two phone apps we used that were indispensable.  The first was Google Maps/Navigation.  It has come pre-installed on every android phone I’ve ever owned.  It’s the best tool on my phone.  I use it all the time.

I’m not writing this post to discuss Google Maps, though.  I just wanted to highlight the other app that became extremely useful for us.  Let’s talk about Gas Buddy.

Gas Buddy is an app for you phone that provides you with gas prices at local stations wherever you happen to be and/or inquire about.  You can view gas prices ranked in order of price or in proximity to your location.  You can view prices in a list format or in a map format.  When you select a gas station to fill up at, you press the button to navigate to that station.

We used the app regularly to find the gas stations with the best prices.  since we used around 100 gallons of gas, being able to save 10 to 20 cents per gallon or more each time we stopped made a little difference.  We bypassed certain cities because of their high gas prices.  Without the app, we may have unknowingly paid significantly more for our fuel.

A Few Tips for Traveling With Grandchildren

Traveling with Grandchildren
Matti (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Some of my happiest and most vivid memories of my childhood include traveling with my Grandparents.  I specifically remember a time when I was about 4 or 5 years old and spent a week, or so, driving around Western Canada in a camper alone with my Grandparents.  We went through a haunted shack and swam in a hot springs.  More than anything, I remember feeling pretty special just to have the time alone with my Grandparents.

I want to give my Grandchildren the same type of happy memories.  We are starting while they are very young and taking trips with them (with and without their parents.)  We happen to live very near our Grandchildren and see them quite a lot, but if we weren’t so close to them, I think traveling together would be a great way to build stronger bonds with them.

The last thing I want, though, is for the creation of happy memories for the grandchildren to become a nightmare for the grandparents.  Children need the proper dose of age specific stimulation to keep them from becoming cranky, overexerted, and whiny.  When “I’m bored!” sets in, the fun stops for everyone.

The good news is that I’ve got a few tips for you that can help to alleviate some of the problems associated with traveling with grandchildren.

Talk to your grandchild’s parents

Before you make any plans for traveling with your grandchildren, be sure to talk with their parents. Make certain that they feel their children are ready to travel without them. Find out what the children like and dislike.  Be sure you know what their interests are so you can tailor your activities around those interests.

Especially with the younger children, know their schedules and routines. If you can stick to their routine while traveling, your travel companions will be much happier.  Be sure they have food when they are accustomed to eating and a rest time when they are routinely ready for a nap.  If they are too hungry or too tired, life will not be pleasant for anyone in the group.

Make a Trial Run

Part of the preparation for that “grand” adventure with your grandchildren, you should make a trial run first. Take them on a short over-niter or two-day trip away from home without their parents. This will be a good test of how well they do away from home. If they get too homesick after only one night away from home, you’ll be much better off to find out now than after you’ve embarked on that 10-day vacation.

On top of that, a trial run will also test your own endurance levels.  Maybe a long trip with the kiddos will be much more challenge than you care to endure.  Remember, the point is to build the relationship and create happy memories, not to damage it.

Plan Your Trip Together

A fun way to get your grandchildren excited about traveling with you, and to get things started on the right foot is to plan your trip together with them. Have them tell you what kinds of activities they want to do.  Involve them in deciding where they want to go.

By including them in the planning, you can be more certain that you’re planning a trip they’ll enjoy.  Furthermore, if the child realizes that they’ve invested in the planning of the trip, they are less likely to voice their displeasure in the outcome.

  • Consider a Packaged Vacation – You’ll find that some travel companies are offering packaged vacations for grandparents traveling with their grandchildren. By taking a packaged vacation designed for you by travel experts, you can be sure that both you and your grandchildren will have fun. There are packages for visiting dude ranches, touring the countryside, going overseas, and many more.
  • Explore the National Parks – This can be a fun, affordable vacation for grandparents traveling with grandchildren. They offer discounts for seniors, and lots of space for children to burn off their energy. You can try tent camping or staying in a hotel in the park. National parks offer activities both you and your grandchildren will enjoy, such as hiking and wildflower and animal viewing.
  • Go to the beach – For a more relaxing vacation, you might consider renting a beach house or staying in a hotel along the beach.  Kids can spend hours playing in the water and sand without getting bored.  If your grandchildren are a little older and can play safely without constant monitoring, you can even relax by the waves with a good book.  Some of our best vacations with our grandchildren have included trips to the beach.

Bring Proper Documents

Whenever you are traveling with your grandchildren, be sure to bring along any documentation you might need. That even goes for your own children.  I remember flying to Mexico City with my young teen daughter.  Besides carrying the expected passport, I also had to bring along a notarized letter indicating that I had permission to travel alone with my daughter.

They should always have some form of I.D. and emergency contact information on them at all times. You should also carry a recent photo in case they do go missing.  In case they need medical attention, you’ll need to prove that you have been granted authority, bring along notarized authorization forms.  If the child is required to take any medication, make sure you bring it and the dosage instructions with you.

Traveling with your grandchildren can be the experience of a lifetime.  Following the above tips will help make sure it is a positive one.

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