Memorial Day road trip plans focus on spending, safety and…Justin Bieber?

When we think of what we need for a road trip, a common list unfolds. A cooler, ice, beverages, snacks, maps and pillows are all normal items we might bring along. We’ll fill up with gas and head out on the highway to get away, even if just for the Memorial Day road trip weekend. This year, some of those items will cost a bit more, some a bit less and there are some new things we might want to consider bringing along.

More than 30 million people nationwide will travel more than 50 miles during Memorial Day weekend, defined as the period from Thursday, May 26 to Monday, May 30 says AAA, an increase of 0.2 percent.

“In 2010, Memorial Day travel experienced a gain of more than 14 percent,” AAA-Oklahoma spokesman Chuck Mai told the Washington Post. “Many travelers have told us they’ll compensate for higher fuel costs by cutting back in other areas of spending.”

They’ll pay more too, with gas running just a bit less than $4.00 per gallon, compared to $2.85 this time last year reports TulsaWorld. But while the high price of gas does not appear to be stopping road trip plans, travelers are looking at expenses carefully, saving where they can.

“You’ll see people eating sandwiches out of the cooler instead of going into a restaurant,” Susanne Pelt, spokeswoman for the South of the Border roadside attraction in South Carolina told

In fact, new ways to save money traveling have been gaining in popularity as more people are expected to travel for the Memorial Day holiday than have since the Great Recession. That means more cars on the road, and more opportunities for motor vehicle accidents during what is already a time when safety concerns prompt law enforcement officials to begin a focus on Click it Or Ticket campaigns, handing out traffic citations for those not using seat belts.

A $200 fine does not exactly fit in with the whole money-saving focus but neither does a traffic accident and ignoring seat belt laws are not the only concern. Avoiding texting while driving is a cause that has even teen sensation Justin Bieber teaming up with PhoneGuard, a system that disables texting while driving.

“It is tragic that almost on a daily basis there are reports of deaths and severe injuries caused by drivers who are texting and driving,” Bieber said in a statement. “We need to change the attitudes in our society toward texting and driving and I am making it one of my personal goals to make this happen.”

He’s not alone in his concern either. The Associated Press reports that Texting and Driving has reached epidemic proportions killing one person every 11 minutes in the United States making it four times more dangerous then drinking and driving.

Flickr photo by richardmasoner

AAA launches new online guide books

Members of AAA (formerly known as the American Automobile Association if you haven’t been paying attention lately) have long-relied on guide books and the famous AAA TripTik page-by-page maps that looked to be doomed as Internet applications like Google maps became more popular. But now, things are looking up for the world’s largest auto club.

Announced today, AAA members can take along the free digital guides for their Amazon Kindle, Apple iPad, Barnes and Noble Nook, Sony Reader or smartphones equipped with an e-reader application. Site visitors to can view the available eTourBook titles, but only AAA members can initiate a download. To complete the process, members login to download titles to their personal computer and then sync the files to their portable device.

The AAA library is extensive too. AAA publishes 26 regional TourBook guides covering the United States, Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean .The information is gathered by a team of travel editors and inspectors conduct in-person evaluations of all AAA Approved lodgings and restaurants.

Listings include 58,000 AAA Approved and Diamond Rated lodgings and restaurants, 17,000 attractions, 23,000 events and 7,000 destinations.

Printed AAA TourBook guides and maps are still available free to members through AAA offices or online at I just ordered a bunch of them for an upcoming trip to Italy at the end of the month. I think it is one of the best benefits they have…well, next to coming out for free road service that is.

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Flickr photo by photopaige

Five reasons why you’ll be miserable during Thanksgiving travel

We’ve all heard that the day before Thanksgiving is the busiest of the year for air travel. And, the roads tend to get clogged up with people going to visit friends and family – not to mention stuff their faces with turkey, potatoes and other traditional holiday fare. Travel isn’t going to be fun tomorrow, but you already know that.

But, do you know why?

Personally, of course, I have no doubt you do. Like me … like everyone … you have your own collection of Thanksgiving travel horror stories (and we’d love to read them, so leave a comment!). There’s also a big picture though, which provides a bit of context as to why this travel day can be unbearable.

Let’s take a look at five reasons why Thanksgiving travel is going to suck this year:

TA’s Thanksgiving travel trends survey found 28% say Turkey Day traveling stresses them out, especially heavy traffic.less than a minute ago via HootSuite

1. You won’t be alone: AAA estimates that more than 42 million people will be traveling at least 50 miles from home for the Thanksgiving holiday. Whether you’re in an airport or on the road, you won’t be alone. Be ready to share – you won’t have a choice.

2. It gets more crowded than airports: I’ve flown my share of Thanksgiving Eves, and it is miserable. But, the roads will probably be tougher (as I cope with childhood memories that fall short of fond). AAA notes that 94 percent of these travelers – 39.7 million people – will reach their holiday destinations by car. Traffic mean’s a whole lot of “Alice’s Restaurant” while you wait to merge.

3. The weather won’t help: according to CNN, there are “[w]inter storm warnings, watches and advisories” starting in California, Utah and Nevada and going all the way up to the Canadian border. Blizzards are on the list for most of Utah, western Colorado and southern Idaho.

Have the sense to stay off the roads when driving would be colossally stupid.

4. The media won’t help: doubtless you’ve seen a few stories about body scanners and “National Opt-Out Day.” If you think this won’t lead to longer lines at airport security checkpoints (if a mass protest actually happens), you’re out of your mind. Indignation means longer waits, so if National Opt-Out Day happens, I hope for your sake you’re a supporter. There’s a good chance you aren’t, though, as 64 percent of Americans say they support the scans, according to an ABC News/Washington Post poll.

There’s also a good chance you’re living in a dream world, since 70 percent of respondents to that poll believe the new TSA procedures won’t affect their flying plans.

5. It always does: right?

So, what’s your worst Thanksgiving travel experience? Leave a comment below to let us know!

[photo by atlih via Flickr]

Five sleepy driving stats to scare you for Thanksgiving

Are you heading over the river and through the woods for Thanksgiving this year? Well, you better stop for coffee along the way! A new study by AAA finds there’s a pretty big number of sleepy drivers out there. Think about every 10 cars around you: there’s a good chance at least one of those driver’s has dozed off behind the wheel. So, how bad is the problem? Let’s take a look at five sleepy driving statistics that will make you open your eyes wide.

1. Recent risk: 10 percent of drivers have fallen asleep at the wheel in the past year

2. Long-term confessions: 41 percent of respondents admit that they’ve done so at least some point in their lives

3. We’re all hypocrites: a whopping 85 percent of drivers find it “completely unacceptable, writes Insurance Networking News, “to drive if someone is so tired that they struggle to keep their eyes open”

4. Crashes are common: according to a new analysis of National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data, 12.5 percent of crashes leading to hospitalization were caused by fatigued drivers

5. Death is a serious possibility:
16.5 percent of deadly crashes involve drivers too drowsy to belong behind the wheel, also from the analysis of National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data

All of this is utterly preventable. Be smart, and know your limits.

[photo by marcn via Flickr]

Calculate your fuel cost – Road trip tip

An essential ingredient for any road trip is fuel. While you know the cost of your accommodations, you may not always know how much gas will cost for the length of your road trip.

There are websites to help you determine that cost, however. For example, AAA‘s Fuel Cost Calculator allows you to calculate the fuel cost of your trip. Using drop-down menus, you select your starting city, destination and vehicle. The calculator determines mileage, gallons of fuel used and total fuel cost. Not all cities and destinations are listed, but you can get a general idea.

At, you can search for the best gas prices in each city or region you’re traveling through. Site visitors report what they paid for fuel at individual gas stations. You’ll learn the lowest and highest prices reported in the past 36 hours. Armed with this information, you can budget your fantastic road trip.

[Photo: Flickr | Borderfilms (Doug)]