I'm back from my vacation, which was most importantly fun and relaxing-- but being pretty darn affordable is a nice plus!
One thing that kept costs down was getting the best gas mileage we could manage. Considering that we used roughly 75 gallons of gas, it was a worthwhile priority.
Our fuel economy was helped, first and foremost, by my conversion to cruise control. I've never liked cruise control; it always kind of freaks me out to be zooming down the highway at top speeds and basically letting the car drive itself! Plus I worry that I'll get distracted if I have too little to think about while driving. But my boyfriend knows my weak spots; we calculated that it cost us about $1 more for every hour of me driving without cruise control versus him driving with it. So I gritted my teeth and plunged in, and although it took me maybe a half-hour to get through the jitters, it turned out to be not so bad. So, first tip: use cruise control! (At least if you're on mostly flat ground; if the terrain is hilly, you'll actually get worse gas mileage than if you were doing it yourself unless you're pretty bad at it.)
Another money-saving benefit of cruise control is that it cuts out the risk of inadvertently speeding faster than you intend, and ending up with a pricey speeding ticket. Of course, if you actually set your cruising speed that high...
Other ways to improve gas mileage:
- Keep your speed down. Gas mileage declines dramatically when you get above 60 mph. We stayed at a pretty steady 70 mph, as speed limits varied from 65 to 75 on the highway. This is a hard one, though, when you have a long way to go and are impatient to get there.
- Use air conditioning instead of opening windows. This surprised me, but apparently the aerodynamic impact of open windows on the highway is worse for gas mileage than using the air conditioner. (Or at least they're about the same; apparently there is some controversy on this point.) In slower or city driving, however, AC is definitely worse than keeping the windows down. And of course it's even better to keep the windows closed and the AC off, and just use the fan or nothing at all, if you can manage it... but on hot days, sometimes it's just not worth it! Driving at night or early in the morning can help, though.
- Lighten your load. Not much we could do about this one, unfortunately. But at least we didn't use a roof rack, which is even worse.
- Don't accelerate while going uphill. It's massively inefficient, so don't do it unless you really have to.
- Keep your car well-maintained. Keeping your engine tuned-up, having a clean air-filter, clean oil, proper tire pressure, and other factors improve your fuel economy. Obviously taking care of your car will pay off financially in other ways, too!