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Got Gas?

The cost of oil is finally starting to come down, yet the pain at the pump hasn’t subsided; I’m still passing the $60 mark every time I fill my car’s tank. Most major airlines have increased their fuel surcharges as of late, and just announced that they don’t plan to lessen the surcharges to reflect the lower price of oil.

If the high prices have threatened to put the kaibosh on your vacation plans this fall, check out TripAdvisor’s “Affordable Getaways” feature. Simply enter your hometown and choose how far you want to go (a full tank, half tank or quarter). Bing-bam-boom, you’re presented with five destinations within the desired range, along with the distance from your town and the estimated cost of gas to get there.

You can get this far on the site without logging in. If you click on the “Get Your Guide” button for a particular destination you’ll be asked to login or setup a TripAdvisor account. They only require email, so it’s a quick and easy setup. (My experience is that they don’t send an excessive amount of email unless you sign up for a bunch of alerts.) Once you’ve accessed the online guide for your chosen locale, you can see the top 10 hotels, restaurants, and things to do as rated by TripAdvisor’s users.

Although the coverage isn’t exhaustive, it’s a well-designed service that will undoubtably give you some ideas for getaways closer to home.

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Before I began this blog, I was warned that it can be difficult to keep up regular blog posts. I think “they” were right! It’s not the writing so much that’s hard, it’s finding the time to do it. That’s something I’ll have to continue to work on. In the meantime, though, it did give me an idea for a post: time saving tips for traveling! Below are a few time-savers that have worked for me. I’d love to hear your tips and tricks, so leave a comment or email me with ideas!

  • Start putting clothes aside that you want to pack a few days or even a week in advance. I’ve started doing this after each load of laundry when I have an upcoming trip. Now, instead of spending an hour or more the night before the trip trying to figure out what I want to pack, it takes me about 20 minutes to make sure I have everything, add last minute items, and throw it all in a suitcase.
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  • Make a list of all the toiletries that you typically take with you (contact lense case, prescription drugs, hair brush, etc.). Refer to the list as you’re packing and it will go a lot faster (and you won’t forget anything!). Better yet, keep duplicates of the items in a travel case that you never unpack. I do this for some inexpensive items like toothpaste and shampoo; my husband keeps all our electronics (chargers, batteries, connectors, etc.) organized in baggies inside a carry-on that we always take with us.
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  • If you have house or pet sitters that don’t have their own key, use a coded key safe like realtors use. The sitter can let themselves in (don’t forget to give them the code, of course!), and you don’t have to worry about getting the key to the sitter before the trip.
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  • If you’re like me, the admirable desire to leave a clean house behind was engrained in you as a child (just like the admonition to always wear clean underwear). Well, I say “Fuhgeddaboudit!” I used to spend hours the week before a trip making the house perfect. Now I just clean the rooms that the pet sitter will use, and leave the rest as is if I don’t have time. (I still make sure I have clean underwear, but that’s a lot less time-consuming!)
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  • Get your boarding pass on the airline’s website the day before you leave. Not only does this save time at the airport (although you’ll still have to check your luggage at the counter), it may result in a better seat. Southwest Airlines, for example, issues boarding passes that indicate your place in the boarding line. Since you can pick your own seat on Southwest, the closer you are to the front of the line, the better chance you have of getting a desirable bulkhead, exit row or aisle seat.
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  • Speaking of flying, you can save time by booking a non-stop flight. It sounds obvious, but since non-stop flights typically cost more, it’s an option you may overlook. Consider that I just did a search for flights from LAX to New York and the non-stop option was only $29 more and arrived an hour and a half sooner than the next closest fare with one stop. The question is, how much is your time worth?
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  • Save time on your trip by pre-booking as much as possible before the trip – car rentals, tours, hotels (if you’ll be staying in more than one place), etc. Although this can still take quite of a bit of time up front, it keeps you from spending your vacation time  standing in lines or on the phone trying to make arrangements. When we traveled to Europe in 2002, I booked all but one hotel online. Back then, it was probably harder to make email reservations than it is today. Although this required us to decide in advance how long we would spend in each location, we left some flexibility in at the beginning of the trip, which allowed us to make wonderful diversions to Brugge and Amsterdam.

What time-saving travel tips do you have?

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