(Trends Wide) — With the number of COVID-19 cases falling in the United States and restrictions loosened or lifted, those long-delayed epic road trips seemed to be on the horizon for the holidays.
Then — BOOM!
Gasoline prices began to skyrocket. And this inflation attack feels like a punch after everything else.
It’s downright discouraging. Especially for low-income families who have to make every dollar count. However, don’t give up on your road trip dreams entirely or pay more than you need to, even if you can afford it.
Trends Wide Travel has lined up 11 ways to make the most of every precious drop of fuel so you can still load up the car, unload your worries, and hit the road.
1. Use apps to find less expensive gas
Download gasoline apps to help you in your search for cheaper gasoline. Here are a handful of options:
- AAA Mobile – The mobile version of the famous AAA TripTik Planner comes with membership. Get pricing information along with route planning.
- Gas Buddy: They also offer a card to save money on gas purchases.
- Gas Guru – Owned by the Yellow Pages, offers information on car washes, auto repair, and ATMs, as well as gas prices.
- Geico: The insurance company has a mobile app to help you find great rates near you.
- Waze: This navigation app can also send you to stations with cheaper prices.
2. Take advantage of card discounts
Those apps are just the beginning of finding less expensive gas. Also take advantage of discounts and offers on credit cards to further reduce the price.
For example, Discover cardholders will earn 5% cash back on gas purchases in April, May and June. You just have to click on a message to sign up.
Then there are the credit cards dedicated specifically to gasoline. Consumer advisory platform NerdWallet has compiled a list of the best credit cards, including the best for travelers.
“The other thing is to join some kind of club with the local gas station so you can get some prizes in the future,” Bill Eisele of the Texas A&M Transportation Institute recently told Trends Wide. Penny Hoarder has a few options you can check out.
Finally, some stations can save you about 10 cents a gallon on gas if you take a few extra minutes to pay with cash at the store instead of using a credit card at the pump.
3. Use stations right next to major highways
“It’s usually best not to use the stations along the interstate,” advised Ellen Edmonds, public relations manager for AAA, in a recent interview with Trends Wide Travel. She said they tend to have higher prices due to convenience.
Instead, “drive a few miles down the road. Look for residential areas or remote rural areas.”
And you can put those apps to use once you stop.
4. Being stingy at expensive gas stations is key
If you’re running low on gas and stuck in an area with high prices, pull over but don’t fill up.
Pump enough gas to get safely to a place where stations generally charge less. Finish filling your tank there. However, Edmonds advises against letting the tank fill below a quarter.
Retirement advocate AARP reminds its members that unless the vehicle requires it, buying premium gas is just a waste of money.
5. Keep up with your vehicle maintenance
Cars get better gas mileage when their parts are maintained. Plus, there’s the safety factor.
The experts at YourMechanic.com, an auto repair startup that reaches customers’ homes, told Trends Wide Travel a couple of things to do before you hit the road:
- Check your tire pressure: make sure it’s properly inflated; as under-inflated tires increase fuel consumption. Check your tires for bald spots. It also measures tire pressure to avoid punctures or spontaneous breakage.
- Remember the air filter: keep the air in your car fresh by changing the air filters before a long road trip. This is especially important if you plan to drive during the day in the sun.
6. Develop good driving habits
Drivers should make sure to be on the lookout for excessive idling, Edmonds said. You are burning gasoline and it literally gets you nowhere. Even in winter, there is no need to “warm up” the car. If it is going to be idle for more than 60 seconds, turn off the vehicle.
Eliminate those “rabbit” starts and harsh accelerations. Relax moderately on your starts and apply the brakes early for stops.
“We burn a lot of fuel when we drive aggressively,” Eisele said. “So take it easy on the throttle.”
7. Drive more slowly and steadily
It depends on the vehicle, but on average, fuel savings of about 14% are achieved if you maintain a constant speed of 80 kilometers per hour, Edmonds said. The faster you go beyond that, the faster you’ll burn through your gas.
Of course, 50 mph is too slow for most interstate travel when other drivers are flying by, even when you’re clocking 70 mph.
“Take a scenic route and go at a constant speed in that sweet spot to get the most out of your fuel economy,” he said.
8. Consider a “commuter” trip
There are choices between settling for another stay and an epic cross-country road trip that would break your budget. It is the “closeness”. Think of places closer to home but far enough away to feel like a bona fide trip.
Edmonds compiled a list of AAA tips in America that may not immediately come to mind when planning a road trip.
Many of these are closer to major population centers than some of the more popular but remote national parks to the west, such as Yellowstone and Arches. And some of the places on this list may also be less crowded.
9. Set your sights on the states with the cheapest gas.
Average prices for a gallon of gasoline can vary widely from state to state. Instead of taking a direct trip across the country and back, maybe this is the year for a ride within a state with less expensive gas.
In general, the states in the center of the country have the cheapest gasoline. Check this AAA site for daily updates.
10. Get rid of the car in a big city
Maybe you want an urban adventure and have snagged a great deal on a flight or accommodation.
Don’t rent a car if you have good public transportation options at your destination, Edmonds said. Subways, light rail, buses, bikes, scooters, and walking through dense city centers can cost you less than renting a car, paying for parking, and burning gas.
Atlanta, for example.
One of the city’s MARTA train lines goes directly to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Some of the city’s best tourist attractions are near MARTA stations or streetcars, including the Belt Line Walkway, Woodruff Center for the Arts, Georgia Aquarium, and Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Park.
In Canada, French-infused Quebec City is best explored on foot anyway.
11. Share the ride
Did you have a “bubble” during the pandemic: trusted friends you would date? Edmonds suggested that they might want to take a road trip with you.
“Group travel is another way to save money for a number of reasons. Plus, you share experiences along with shared costs. A lot of people have embraced it during the pandemic.”