HEADING for the highway this summer? The great American road trip will cost you more than last year thanks to high fuel prices.
The price of gas on average in the United States was $3.96 earlier this month, up from $2.91 a gallon last summer, according to AAA’s Daily Fuel Gauge Report. And prices have been topping $4 at some service stations in California, Connecticut, Illinois and New York.
But don’t tell the kids it’s going to be another staycation summer just yet. While the price of gas in the United States is still more than a dollar higher than the same time last year, analysts say gas prices may have hit their peak and are expected to drop, offering drivers some relief. In the meantime, there are plenty of ways to keep your fuel bill in check, from choosing the right destination (see our 50 round-trip getaways you can take on one tank of gas at nytimes. com/travel) to downloading the right app. Below, 13 tips for cutting the cost of that summer road trip.
GET A GAS APP There are dozens of apps that help users find cheap gas while on the road. GasBuddy. com, offers one of the more comprehensive for iPhone and Android users, with a clean design and estimated drive times to gas stations in your vicinity. Just tap “Find Gas Near Me” or search by city or ZIP code for a list of gas stations sorted by price. You can click Midgrade, Premium or Diesel for those prices. Selecting Map View displays the stations on a map. Another option is AAA’s free TripTik Mobile app for the iPhone, which allows users to search prices for their preferred grade of gasoline.
LET THE HOTEL COVER THE GAS To avoid a repeat of 2008, when the soaring price of gas made “staycation” a household term, destinations that rely primarily on drivers are rolling out gas-related incentives. San Luis Obispo, a coastal resort town halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, is promoting car-free vacations with 20 percent Amtrak
discounts and hotel bargains of up to 30 percent off. And many hotel chains, from Sky Hotels & Resorts in Orlando to Personality Hotels in San Francisco, are offering gas cards or rebates from $10 to $50, depending on the package and length of stay.
STAY OUT OF TRAFFIC Google Maps, which comes preinstalled on many smartphones or is available for download, offers an at-a-glance display of road conditions in major cities to help you find the best route around congestion so you don’t burn up extra fuel in stop-and-go traffic. Color-coded lines correspond to the intensity of traffic: green for no traffic jams, yellow for medium congestion, red for heavy congestion, and red-and-black for stop-and-go. Google Maps Navigation, offered through Google Maps for Android, has recently been updated to offer alternate routes to avoid tie-ups.
PAY LESS FOR YOUR RENTAL CAR A cheaper rental will help offset the cost of gas. Check out the booking site Autoslash. com, which searches the Web for discount coupons on car rentals and applies them after you book. It then continually checks for lower rates and coupons up until your trip date, and automatically applies any discounts it finds. Willing to gamble? Consider Web sites like Priceline. com and Hotwire. com, which offer deep discounts to travelers willing to be locked into a preset price before learning what company they’ll be renting from.