With gas prices exceeding $4 per gallon in many states, travelers are becoming increasingly concerned about the impact of fuel costs on their vacation budgets. While we can't bring fuel prices down, we can definitely help you save money on gas while you are on vacation.
Before You Travel
- Plan a vacation close to home. You don't have to travel a thousand miles to "get away from it all." Find a resort, mountain getaway or glamorous downtown within a reasonable drive; then, look for deals on restaurants and lodging. You'll have fun and save money at the same time.
- Maintain your car. Keep your oil changed (consult your owner's manual for intervals), inflate your tires to the proper pressure and change your filters on schedule.
- Pack light. Your car will thank you – and you'll thank yourself when it's time to haul your bags to your hotel room or cottage.
During Your Vacation
- Drive your most fuel-efficient car. You may need to leave a suitcase or two behind, but you'll save money on gasoline – and you'll probably find that you don't need all those extra outfits anyway.
- Use smartphone apps and websites to find the cheapest gas. Smartphone apps track gas prices in locations around North America; top favorites include GasBuddy, Fuel Finder and I Gas Up. If you don't have a smartphone, you can use websites such as MapQuest, GasBuddy.com and AAA Fuel Price Finder instead.
- If you are eligible, use your membership stores' and military bases' gas pumps. Active duty and retired military members can gas up on bases and posts around the US. (Overseas military bases require ration cards.) Membership stores such as Costco and Sam's Club feature discounts on gasoline; if you have a membership, consider making a list of stores near interstate exits and planning your fuel stops around that list.
- Drive at the speed limit and use your cruise control. Using cruise control will help you drive at a consistent speed, which will increase fuel efficiency. While driving at 55 miles per hour will save you more on gasoline, it does not make sense to drive ten miles per hour slower than the posted highway speed limit; you could cause a traffic jam or provoke a road rage incident. Instead, drive at the speed limit. (Side benefit: You will avoid receiving speeding tickets.)
- Travel at off-peak times. Driving in heavy stop-and-start traffic reduces fuel efficiency and wastes time. Plan your long drives for weekend days or non-rush hour times.
- Use alternate transportation. It may make more sense to drive to your destination than take a train or bus, particularly if you are not visiting a large city, but you may wish to try walking, taking public transportation or even bike sharing once you arrive. Washington, D. C., Denver and Minneapolis-St. Paul have bike share programs in place, and many more cities, towns and resorts offer bike rentals.