Frommer's readers love to travel and save -- it's what we do -- so with the cost of fuel at record highs, it's not only our day to day driving that's being affected -- it's our international airfares (with those sometimes hefty airline fuel surcharges) and the impact on our wallets when we want to take a weekend getaway in the luxury of our own car.
I personally am not willing to give up on getting out of the city for a few days of R&R, especially during these gorgeous weeks of spring time weather, simply because of prices at the pump. Don't despair -- Frommer's is here to guide you to savings. We can't promise that you'll be smiling at the pump, but at least we can help take some of the financial pressure off.
Community Price Watch Sites
It's at times like these that consumer websites like Gas Price Watch (www.gaspricewatch.com) really come in handy. The website is designed to help users find the lowest price of gas in their own neighborhood (or in a city that you are planning to visit). In fact if the price of petrol is really influencing when and where you travel by car, you may want to consider Idaho for your next getaway -- the town of Twin Falls currently has the lowest prices in the entire country -- a gallon of gas here will only set you back $2.43. Unfortunately if you are California based (or bound), the oil companies are squeezing you for a whopping $3.79 a gallon. As a New York City dweller and car owner, I regularly pay too much but just found out that in Teaneck NJ, I can fill up for only $2.77 a gallon. Searching is simple (by zip code, address or for those geographically oriented, by latitude and longitude), and it is best to use the price filters (i.e. prices posted in the last 24 hours only).
If you would like to become an oil price vigilante, you can register as a spotter for free on the website and help spot and post prices in your neighborhood so others can benefit. The more participants, the better. They currently have over 123,000 volunteers spotting and posting prices, putting in time to help keep this consumer champion website up to date.
Take heart -- you could be living in the United Kingdom where the price of a gallon of petrol is currently $7.19, although somehow it sounds better to say only $1.90 a liter (one gallon = 3.78 liters). So if you're thinking about driving around Europe this summer, the train may be a better alternative, with Italian prices at around $6 a gallon. Australia fares a bit better: $3.92 a gallon, and our Canadian neighbors to the north are paying up to $3.81 a gallon.
Gas Buddy (www.gasbuddy.com) is a fuel price comparison website that also includes Canada. It lets you compare prices from today, yesterday, last week, last month or last year if you really want to suffer knowing how much you used to pay. Their USA National Gas Temperature color-coded map gives you a visual of where prices are really heating up -- inevitably California looks red hot, as is the very southern tip of Florida. New York is a burning orange, as are parts of Oregon, Washington State and northern Maine. You'll be green with envy at the low prices being paid in Tulsa, OK and Springfield MI.
Top Tips for Topping Off Your Tank
Gas Price 101 (www.gasprices101.com) is another website that tries to help the humble consumer with the best savings tips. Their top ten tips include:
- Buy a Car With Better Fuel Economy: This is an obvious one. Choosing a hybrid vehicle that gets 52 miles-per-gallon rather than an SUV that gets 13 miles-per-gallon would give you 75% better gas mileage (not to mention helping the environment).
- Observe Speed Limits: The optimal range for fuel efficiency is 35 mph to 55 mph. For each 5 mph you drive over 55 mph, your fuel efficiency decreases by about 7%. Adhering to speed limits is not only a safer way to drive; it will help you save on gas as well.
- Maintain Proper Tire Pressure: Studies have shown that drivers use up to 10% less gas simply by keeping their tires inflated at the recommended level.
- Avoid Excessive Idling: Unfortunately this tip doesn't take into account those people who commute in cities like New York or Los Angeles. The website suggests that by simply avoiding excessive idling, you can cut down on your gas consumption by 2% or more.
- Remove Excess Weight: Not passengers (unless you really want to), but any junk you may have in your trunk. Are? Removing "dead weight" can increase your gas mileage by as much as 2% for every 100 pounds you remove.
- Use Cruise Control: Using cruise control on the highway regulates your speed and improves your gas mileage by up to 5%.
- Use Overdrive: You can save up to 2% on gas consumption by putting your car in overdrive so that the engine does not have to work as hard to maintain a high driving speed.
- Use a Rebate Cards: Paying for gas with a rebate card can give an automatic 4% to 10% cash back on all gas purchases. Banks and credit card companies like Chase, Citi, and Discover offer these cards as do gas stations like Hess, Marathon, and Speedway.
- Perform Regular Maintenance: A tune-up can result in gas savings of up to 4%, and replacing a faulty part like an oxygen sensor can save you as much as 40%. Changing your oil and air filter regularly can also result in better mileage.
- Get a Free Gas Card: I'm a little suspicious of deals that sound too good to be trueÂ¿but some companies offer a free giFt. card for gas purchases in an effort to promote awareness of their brands and gain new customers. Promotional offers can often be redeemed at Shell, Texaco, BP and Exxon-Mobil stations.
The Lure of Free Gas
It's not spreading like wildfire just yet, but many travel product provider's -- especially accommodations -- are throwing in vouchers for free fill-ups or X number of dollars toward a fuel purchase when you choose particular establishments.
And one of my favorite money-saving deals is BedandBreakfast.com's (www.bedandbreakfast.com) "Tanks A Lot." For the third year in a row, the site is offering free gas to B&B guests. Traditionally launched in June, BedandBreakfast.com members are introducing their free gas offers earlier this year, in response to skyrocketing gas prices. There are some conditions and holiday season blackout periods, but this is one of those offers that you should definitely look in to. A complete list of participating properties in the BedandBreakfast.com "Tanks A Lot" promotion visit www.bedandbreakfast.com/ppf/cts/S/Specials.aspx?cts=S. Here are a few examples:
- North Coast Country Inn, Gualala, CA: California gas prices might be about the highest in the country, but the drive up the coast is worth it. Stay two nights and receive a $25 cash gas rebate through October.
- Inn at the Oaks, Eastham, MA: Stay two-nights or more at this family-friendly B&B, and receive $25 to help cut gas costs while visiting the many nearby Cape Cod attractions. Valid through June 15, 2006.
- Greenleaf Inn, Newburyport, MA: Receive a $25 gas certificate for bookings of two midweek nights, July through September, 2006.
- Adair Country Inn, Bethlehem, NH: Stay three midweek nights until August 31, 2006 show your gas receipt and the amount you spent on gas will be deducted from the bill (up to $50). Stay four nights, and they'll throw in a car wash!
- Sugar Hill Harlem Inn, Manhattan, NY: "Peak Oil" is a term used by some geologists, referring to diminishing world oil reserves. When you call and use the password "Peak Oil," you'll be treated to a $25 discount on three-or-more night stays in May and June, 2006 to help with rising gas costs.
- Authentic B&Bs of Lancaster County: Stay two nights midweek (Sunday through Thursday) in June, 2006 and receive a $25 reduction on your total bill to help defray gas prices from 23 participating B&Bs Then, park the car and hop a ride with the Amish on a horse and buggy to get a real lesson in conserving gas.
- Harvest Moon B&B, New Holland, PA, and Grandma's Cottage, Harrisonburg, VA: A $25 gas card is included with your accommodation along with plenty of other perks, offered through December 2006.
- Stone Hill Inn, Stowe, VT: Mention "BedandBreakfast.com Tanks a Lot" offer when making reservations for two or more nights between now and August 17, 2006 and receive a free $50 Mobil gas card upon check-out.
- Anchorage Inn B&B, Coupeville, WA: For every two night midweek stay in the Crow's Nest Suite through June, receive a $25 reduction in room rates to help defray your fuel costs. Be sure to ask for the gas rebate when booking.
Are high prices forcing you to alter your travel plans? Tell us your story or share your tips for saving at the pump on our Road Trips Message Boards today.