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.

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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