Road trip plans foiled by rising gas prices

road tripJust as spring and summer road trip plans are being made, gas prices are on the rise. That’s no big news, as we reported the same thing about this time last year. This year, though, gas prices are beginning their annual climb earlier than ever with potentially bad news on the horizon for road trippers making plans right now.

In an interview with the Buffalo News, Patrick DeHaan, a senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy.com, said, “it’s pretty rough. One word can sum it up: ‘ouch.’ It’s going to be a nasty year for gas prices.”

GasBuddy reports gas prices around the United States, assesses what drives the price of fuel, and offers helpful tips on getting the best fuel economy. This week, Gas Buddy reports a national average of $3.63 per gallon of regular gas, with an average of $3.92 and a high of $4.19 in New York City. In Santa Barbara, California, the situation is worse with an average of $4.40, peaking to $4.79 at the highest station, well before road trip season gets going in full stride. The early rise in gas prices has motorists wondering why.

“This year, the price increases are really based on what’s happening in the world oil market, the crude market,” said Wally Smith, a vice president with AAA, explaining to the Buffalo News, “You get around $4, people really start adjusting driving behaviors.”

So what can we do to prepare for $5.00 per gallon gas?

Moneycrashers, an online source dedicated to developing a community of people who try to make financially sound decisions, suggests that those thinking about buying a car might consider a more fuel-efficient vehicle. At $3.00/gal the added expense of a green car makes owning one more for super eco-aware drivers. At $5.00/gal, the math works.

But saving in other areas to offset the price of fuel, often areas directly affected by the price of fuel itself, can help too. Homes heated by fuel oil will see an increase in costs so finding alternative ways to heat your home is a good idea.

Food will go up in price so we can save money by starting a home garden. Moneycrashers even suggests keeping chickens, starting a beehive, growing your own sprouts, or learning how to forage for nuts.

If that sounds a bit extreme, consider other methods to save on food like buying products in bulk, cooking more at home, and eating out less.

“Food prices really surged at the end of 2011, which isn’t good news to consumers,” said USDA food economist Richard Volpe, in Business Week. “Costs this year will rise as much as 4.5 percent for meat products and baked goods.”

All good reasons why cutting back in areas related and affected by rising fuel prices can leave room in the budget for a decent road trip. Online tools to help manage expenses and predict the price of a road trip are also available.

The website Cost2Drive built a galculator, a fun and easy tool to help travelers budget for road trips, because, as they put it, “the carefree days of jumping in the car with no regard to costs are long gone.”The easy-to-use online tool calculates the price of gas from point A to point B based on current gas prices along the way and even throws in carbon footprint data to consider.

So while we may not be able to do anything about the price of gas, we can control expenses in other areas, leaving room for road trip dreams to blossom.


Fun Green Ways to Beat Gas Prices

Flickr photo by photopaige

EasyJet profits triple as budget airline attracts more passengers

Budget carrier easyJet almost tripled its profits in the past 12 months as fuel prices dropped and passengers flocked to book cheap flights, BBC reports.

The airline released figures for the past twelve months through September, revealing a profit of £154m million ($247 million). The previous 12 months saw profits of £55 million ($88 million). A total of 49 million people flew on easyJet in the past year, up 8 percent.

While a 9 percent drop in fuel prices helped all airlines, there’s been a continued shift away from national carriers such as British Airways and Air France in favor of budget carriers, and no budget airline has as much share in the European market as easyJet. The carrier now accounts for 7.6 percent of the European market.

The airline also announced it will pay a dividend for the first time in 2012, and will be buying 24 airplanes in order to expand its services.

[Photo courtesy Antony J Best via Wikimedia Commons]

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 GasBuddy.com, 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)]

Favorable fares may be coming to a close

In past years, Memorial Day signaled the end of sweetheart flight prices. This year, a sinking economy stretched the deals a bit longer, but experts say the good times may be coming to a close. Remember the problems last summer, with higher prices blamed on jet fuel? Well, we could see the cost of oil work the same dismal magic this summer.

Rick Seaney, CEO of FareCompare.com, cites recent fare increases of $10 to $20 per roundtrip as an indicator that we are the brink of an upswing. But, these are counterbalanced by new lows elsewhere. A recent survey by Travelocity shows ticket prices down 17 percent for trips between Memorial Day and Labor Day. So, buyers and sellers are locked in a silent struggle to determine how much your next vacation will cost.

With an eye out for possible deals, customers are waiting, booking their flights 86 days ahead instead of the usual 90. While this doesn’t seem like much, it takes a lot of last minute purchases to bring the average down.

Even if airline fares are coming back, you can still take advantage of the lows now. If you’re thinking about taking a vacation, stop … and take action instead.

Airline Claims it Will Save $20 Million by Increasing Fuel Efficiency

Etihad Airways has announced that it is on track to save $20 million this year because of the success of its fuel-saving techniques. The airline has taken steps to reduce weight and improve engine performance by increasing the number of engine washes and reducing cruising speeds.

The fuel-saving strategy is not a last desperate attempt to stay in business. Etihad has been wildly successful over the past year. In the first half of 2008, it saw an unprecedented 41% increase in the number of passengers when compared to the same period in 2007. The airline has recently added routes to China and plans to expand further in to Europe and North America.

The Abu Dhabi-based carrier has added new routes and is planning on expanding its fleet by more than 100 aircraft in the near future. However, a slowing world economy and a projected drop in the number of passengers flying into and out of the Middle East might put a damper on Etihad’s ambitious growth plans.