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Gas 'n' Go?

May 25, 2011 By:
Elyse Glickman, Jewish Exponent Feature
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Memorial Day -- and upcoming summer -- blues over rising gasoline prices? Those increases may curb some road trips, but they can also fuel your creativity, resourcefulness and appreciation of great escapes close to home.

Indeed, some travelers believe that the journey can be just as satisfying as the destination. This is particularly true with road trips, as the stretches of highway open out to the many fascinating flavors of Americana.

The skyrocketing pump prices, however, have unfortunately brought a bitter aftertaste to the road trip's normally delightful buffet of delights. While such trips were traditionally seen as cost-effective, spontaneous ways to see the country, fuel prices have shifted that paradigm to the point where in some cases, airfares (though also rising in price, along with baggage fees and rumors of coin-op toilets) can end up costing about the same.

John Townsend, a spokesperson for AAA Mid-Atlantic, meanwhile, warns that even with rumblings of some price stability taking place, the crude oil market's general volatility may still end up pushing prices higher with Memorial Day weekend here.

Reinforcing the AAA's assessment is a March 2011 survey of 40,000 travelers from BedandBreakfast.com . More than 43 percent of respondents admitted that increasing gas prices would affect their plans for travel this summer.

Meanwhile, the 2011 National Online Consumer Behavior study by CityGrid Media and Harris Interactive revealed that 87 percent of women ages 18-34 said gas prices and distance influence their decision -- concerns shared by 67 percent of men in the same age range.

B&B's and Biking

Enter the B&B industry, buoyed by B&Bs Kick Gas!, a campaign spearheaded by the Professional Association of Innkeepers International. In what is allegedly the largest collective effort to help travelers concerned with high gas prices, this program assures travelers can get the help they need where they need it most -- at the pump.

Local drivers should also check out www.pennsylvaniagasprices.com , which at a glance enables road-trippers to plan where they can stop for gas in different parts of the state in advance of their trip or during the journey if they've got a smartphone in hand.

(On the www.BetterwaytoStay.com website, more than 300 inns and B&Bs throughout the United States and Canada, including a number in the Philly area, have posted offers for free gas, gas credits and rewards for carpooling and eco-driving. There are also plenty of offers for free gas cards and discounts on lodging.)

Solomon Singer, who tracks trends and information for BnBFinder.com , cites a PAII study that independently owned bed-and-breakfast lodging and inns did well even with last summer's spike in gas prices.

Why? Because people stayed closer to home, and those properties provided that much needed change of scenery, claims Singer, who expects history to repeat itself this summer.

He offers tips on such spots, which can be found on his firm's website.

Such as? Just hours from Philadelphia, the North Fork of Long Island, a 30-mile peninsula jutting into the Atlantic Ocean, is bursting with activity that will please all kinds of travelers, advises Singer. More importantly, once you get there, the vacation is virtually gas-free. The beaches, restaurants, shopping, art galleries and outdoor activities like biking and hiking are all within walking distance.

On Long Island, Arbor View House Bed & Breakfast and Spa and Aunt Dot's Victorian Bed and Breakfast are both close to beaches, cycling, kayaking and all of the charm of these seaside communities.

Further north, Singer recommends the Seagull Inn Bed and Breakfast, of Marblehead, Mass., 20 miles from Boston and near Chandler Hovey Park, for its views at Castle Rock and acres of waterfront at Devereux Beach.

In Kennebunkport, Maine, he likes the Maine Stay Inn, a member of the National Register of Historic Places.

Gas-conscious vacationers should check with innkeepers about biking options, continues Singer. Some inns keep bicycles on hand for guest use, while others partner with local bike-rental services.

Using a bike to get around during your getaway can mean you use next to no gas at all. And there is nothing that says summer like biking up and down the coast.

Closer to home? If you want to explore wondrous natural settings and small-town charm that are truly in Philadelphia's backyard, look no further than the Pocono Mountains Visitors Bureau www.800poconos.com to offer up some inspiration on destinations of luxury, value and unusual experiences with minimal travel costs.

One of those finds is Woodloch Inn, which Rory O'Fee, marketing manager for the nearly 100-year-old resort, describes as a cruise ship on land. (The web site, www.woodloch.com , features themed discounted room and package specials.)

The Lodge at Woodloch appeals to a young, trendy crowd, while the Woodloch Springs golf resort appeals to sophisticated couples.

The original resort is steeped in tradition, but keeps families happy with such newer bells and whistles as a 28-foot rock climbing wall, Broadway-style shows (this year, focused on a British royalty theme), go-karts, rifle range and batting cages alongside nature hikes and waterfront beach activities.

Beyond the cost of transportation, be it the pump price or the plane ticket, travelers will be looking for other ways to save money to offset the cost of coming and going.

Joel Fan, president/founder of LuckyChic.com , recommends the following tips:

· Smartphone apps can save you money, whether it be GasBuddy to help you find the cheapest gas near you or ATMHunter, which allows you to avoid fees when withdrawing money.

· Brown-bag it: Make your own lunches or breakfasts when traveling. It's cheaper and healthier to munch on fruit, sandwiches and snacks than eating every meal at a restaurant.

· Drive consistently and carefully: Avoid braking hard or accelerating quickly; you waste gas each time you accelerate just to brake a few seconds later.

· Fill 'em up: Check that your tires are inflated according to the manufacturer's recommended pressure. By maintaining well-inflated tires, you ensure your car is getting better mileage than on under-inflated ones.

· Invest in a GPS: Using a GPS cuts down on the chances of getting lost while driving to your destination, which can waste time and gas.

· Quality goes a long way: Make sure to have your car or motorcycle inspected before you take a road trip.

· Take advantage of deals: If you are a member of organizations that offer discounts, look into where you could be saving money. AAA offers its members a variety of savings, which include discounts to attractions and local restaurants.

· Get maximum bang for your buck: Don't forget to take pictures! You'll have the photos to remember your vacation forever.

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