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Gas Prices Got You Down?

Prices are painful at the pump, but these tips will keep some of those pennies in your pocket.

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Nothing says summer like a road trip, but with the uncertain economy, airlines are lowering fares to levels we haven't seen in years. Is it possible that flying to your destination could actually be cheaper than taking the car?

Consider my plans to visit Washington D.C. -- from New York City, about 500 miles round-trip. I estimate I would have to fill my tank a minimum of three times at $25 per fill-up. That's $75 in gas, plus roughly $20 in tolls. I'll cross my fingers that I won't have to pay for parking.

A round-trip flight costs about $119 with taxes on several carriers for a July weekend, before factoring in the cost of airport parking or transportation to and from the airport. Driving, if you're concerned with costs alone and have a great mile-per-gallon ratio like I do, wins out. But when you factor in other variables like traffic, travel time, etc. -- suddenly the decision to drive to your destination isn't necessarily an easy one.

The fact is, there are several ways for me to get to Washington D.C. this summer that are far cheaper than driving or flying (Related Article: What's the Deal: Traveling the Boston/New York/D.C. Route) because it is a popular and oft-traveled route. If that isn't the case for your summer plans, it is still worth investigating what the most affordable way to get to your destination is. In other words: Don't assume driving will save you money.

Gas and Money Saving Tips
The less gas you use, the less money you'll spend at the pump. But before you even get going, find out where the cheapest gas is near your house by visiting GasBuddy.com. Do a search by zip code and you'll see an updated list of gas prices at stations near you.

When you get on the road, use these tactics to make your fuel go further:

1. Only use the grade of fuel you need. If your car does not require premium fuel, don't get it. Check your owner's manual before the next time you fill up -- if your car only requires regular fuel, stick to that.

2. Use your cruise control -- especially on stretches of flat road. This will stop you from unconsciously speeding up and losing fuel.

3. Ease into a stop. Slamming on your brakes wastes gas. When you see that you need to slow down, ease off the gas and onto the brakes smoothly.

4. Use your air-conditioning. It is a popular myth that a car's air-conditioning wastes gas -- and at slower speeds or in stop-and-go traffic, this is true. However, having the windows open while driving on the highway will actually increase the drag on your car and force it to use more fuel to compensate.

5. Keep your tires inflated. Letting the air get low will force your car to work harder and use more gas.

6. Slow down. According to CNN Money, driving 70 miles per hour instead of 60 miles per hour is the equivalent of paying 54 cents extra per gallon.

7. For more ideas, check out Traveler's Ed's tips for saving gas and money.

Related Links
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    --written by Genevieve S. Brown

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