Everybody is hurting over the economy. The gas prices are higher than ever and everything else has gone up with them. The real kicker is, even if the gas prices drop, the food and supplies that have risen in price because of high gas prices will not drop back down when the price of gas recedes. So right now, it’s gas that’s killing us. In the long run, it will be everything else.
But we are a traveling nation. Being such a large place with so many places to visit or do business in, we are all riding, flying or chugging our way to come distant port. And the price of doing business at a distance is also driving up the cost of products. Those of you who visit family in distant states or just enjoy a skoot to Vegas or Miami, then these suggestions are for you. They are mostly no-brainers, I think, but even still we often don’t think of them. They will save you money on your adventures so that you will have more cashola for the fun stuff like eating, sightseeing and partying.
Hint # 1. When getting ready to go on vacation try to select destinations that have local travel options like bus services or trains. New York has the subway and California has trolleys, Florida has buses and Alaska has ferries. You can get out of the expensive car and explore the city by bus, subway, ferry or trolley and save big bucks. You can also see the town as the townies see it, without the guided, scripted sightseeing tours. Those tours usually cost you more money anyways and this way you get to eat and party with the locals at their price instead of the jacked up price they hand you in the tourist spots. This idea even cuts the hassle and cost of parking, which can run into the $10s of dollars a day just to get a space way in the back of a parking garage.
Hint #2: Look for the deals that offer free gas cards. In a post last month, I listed a number of bed and breakfasts that will give you a free gas card just for coming there. If you call the hotels in the area you plan to visit you can ask for the same gift. Many hotels are doing this or will consider doing it for you. Also, check with travel agents to see where these gas cards are offered.
Hint # 3: If you are going to a vacation spot consider renting a bike. This idea won’t work if you are traveling on business. Besides being the gas saver that hint # 1 is, this idea also allows for greater freedom of movement and flexibility of schedule. Most of the small towns in the south and midwest have sidewalks everywhere, making it a breeze to scout the area for entertaining and rewarding vistas. You can really see the locals when you do this. It is a prime idea when traveling to Europe. Small villages in Italy, France and Germany make for the most beautiful sights, loaded with a lovely dose of local color. The only sensible way to navigate these places is on a bike. This allows you to cruise and view and your own pace, rather than being pushed along by traffic or a scripted tour. It’s also wonderful form of healthy exercise which will reward you by reducing your weight gain when feasting at all the local eateries.
Hint #4: Consider taking a cruise. As always, cruising is the ultimate deal. Not only do you not need a car or gas, you eat onboard, sleep onboard and get off the ship at a locale for free. If you take advantage of duty free shopping you can even do your gift hunting onboard and save the trip to the local shopping centers. In fact, you should be spending your time on shore in the bars, restaurants, flea markets and galleries of the area, tasting the local flavor. And you don’t even need to take your car to the ship because you can travel via shuttle both to and from the cruise, saving you another dime in gas.
Hint #5: Plan your trip around walking. This works best in big cities like New York or Chicago, where entire urban areas are barely accessible by cab. You can see art galleries, bookstores, theaters and many other colorful sights while walking. Most urban areas, even in Europe, are dotted with sidewalks and pathways that make it easy to walk; in fact many locals in these areas walk everywhere and don’t even own a car. So keep that in mind when going to a city. This idea won’t work in more suburban areas or beach towns. These places are usually plagued with large undeveloped areas and urban sprawl.
Hint # 6: Instead of driving there by car, take a train. There is very little difference between these experiences, except that the train is less stressful and less expensive. You pay for gas, sleeping quarters, food and necessities with one ticket. Unlike a plane, you can walk around and visit with other passengers, and even sit and eat with them. The train has long windows along the sides, allowing you to view everything as you drive, just like in a car. You have options to get off at various stations along the way, just as you do when driving and the ability to get onboard again later. It is less dangerous, too. Somewhat like the bargain of a cruise, the train takes awhile to get there and is not for anyone who is in a rush. But then again if you are in a rush, you should not be driving anyways.
Hint # 7: At the hotel, check for shuttle service. In fact, you can do this in advance. Many hotels in resort areas offer complimentary shuttle service. This service will pick you up at the airport and return you there at the end of your stay. It will also shuttle you back and forth to local resorts and tourist traps.
The shuttle driver is a sort of quasi tour guide, able to help you locate areas of interest. But you cannot just commandeer the shuttle for free. You cannot just go here and there on a whim. Most shuttle trips are prearranged and go to a limited number of destinations. This is only useful if you are going to a resort area and plan only to visit the prominent local sites like Disneyland or Six Flags.
Hint # 8: Connect with friends or family and carpool. If you know people in the area, arrange to visit local places with them and share the ride. If you don’t have friends or family in a desirable tourist location, then you should check for carpooling groups in the area. All around the country there is an organization called “share a ride”. It allows you to park your car in a central location with a lot of other cars and travel in groups in single cars to preknown destinations. Again, you cannot just commandeer the ride and will have to go where everyone else is going; ie, the mall or the theater. But you can save a bundle on gas this way and also let someone else show you around the town. You have a good chance of meeting the locals this way, much like the bus services, and can find out about great eateries or fun night spots. And no one’s better at giving directions than the person who lives there, so toss the map!
Hint # 9: When planning your trip, search for resorts that give “all in one” packages. This means that you get the hotel, food, entertainment and travel all on one tab. If you can get there by train, bus or plane, then you can get the shuttle to the hotel and let the resort take care of the rest. You not only save on gas but you save on a lot of headaches this way, too.
Hint # 10: Consider camping in an RV. Yes, an RV swallows a lot of gas and moves slowly, churning the money away. But once you get to your destination, you can just plug it in and relax. If you take a bike with you or use local buses, you can get around for no more expense in gas. Here in Florida we have campgrounds close to most Ports and bus services pass through most of them on an hourly and half hourly schedule. If you have the talent for nature, you might consider taking a bus or train to the area and then camping in a tent. They make very nice tents that house a few people comfortably. This is cheaper than a hotel and if, again, you use bikes or buses, you can save an awful lot in gas. You can also reuse the tent year after year, doubling and tripling your savings. You can also bring your own food and save on eating expenses as well but if restaurant hopping is a big part of the experience for you, then take the bus or ride the bike to the eatery. This idea works best on an outdoors vacation, where you plan to fish, hike, swim or hunt, most any outdoor activity, even birdwatching or trail riding.