Ease the Pedal to the Metal: Gas saving Tips for your next road trip

Tiny Car #1Are you planning to hit the road for your next vacation? Road trips are great if you don’t mind long drives, bugs on your grille and the occasional snoring of one of your passengers. How you drive affects the overall budget of your trip because aside from your accommodations, fuel is probably the other major thing you have to consider in allocating your vacation fund. Save money on gas and add it to your fun budget by following these tried and tested fuel saving tips.

Drive a Fuel Efficient Car

OK, this is pretty obvious, but if you plan to go on a road trip in your 25 year old Toyota, you may as well scrap the whole trip. Older cars burn through fuel faster than a bank loan-denied Human Torch, so you should consider this first and foremost before planning any road trip. If it’s a trip to the Costco a couple of blocks from your house, fine. But a cross country road trip from Vancouver to Montreal? Better call in ahead to a Toyota dealer because you may have to buy a new Toyota – if you even get as far as Ontario. If you don’t have a fuel efficient vehicle, rent one.

Fill ‘er up on Weekdays

Gas prices soar over the weekend and skyrocket during the holidays. If you’re smarter than the average bear, you may want to do all you’re pumping on the weekday, preferably Mondays through Thursdays, but not past 10AM on Thursdays because this is when the stations are most likely to manipulate the pump prices in anticipation of the weekend.

Stop emulating Vin Diesel

Ease off on the accelerator. Driving between 40-60 mph is ideal because going over 70 mph significantly increases vehicle drag, which in turn increases fuel consumption because the engine has to deal with the extra wind factor. On the other hand, driving below 40 mph compromises optimal engine efficiency and makes the car sip more fuel.

Also, avoid jackrabbit acceleration. The other drivers that you share the same stoplight with aren’t there to race you. Accelerate slowly when the light turns green. One last tip is that when you see the light go red, step off the gas and just coast. Stick to the middle or the slow lane if you do this to avoid getting rear-ended.

Follow That Truck

If you’re on the highway, there are bound to be big container trucks. If you don’t mind going a little slower than usual, get behind them (drafting) and let them act as a wind break for your vehicle. This will significantly decrease your own drag, saving you a little bit of gas in the process. Don’t go on tailgating them though, because the last place you want to be in is under the truck when the driver slams on the brakes all of a sudden.

You also may want to close all your windows when drafting, because trucks and other vehicles spew out deadly carbon monoxide and you don’t want to be on the receiving end of that. Also, driving with your windows open increases your vehicles’ drag, so if you really want some fresh air, wait till you get to the city or the nearest town. Here, you can roll down your windows and turn off the AC for more fuel savings.

Check your Tire Pressure

Probably the most overlooked gas saving tip is poorly inflated tires. Check the doorjamb of your ride for the recommended PSI (pounds per square inch) of your tires. Always carry a tire pressure monitor in the glove box. You can also use the ones in the gas stations. If you use aftermarket rims that are a few inches bigger than stock, you may want to call the manufacturer because the PSI of your tires will most likely be different than stock.

See ‘Ya

On your next road trip, it won’t hurt a bit to plan ahead. Map out your route well and know where the nearest gas stations are from the roads you plan to take. Use your phone and download a gas saving app like GasBuddy so you know where the nearest gas station is relative to where you are. Use the money you saved on gas to buy more beer for the trip, but please don’t drink and drive.

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Would you pay for translation apps?

Eleuthera Sunset explored 11-18-12 thank you!More than 500 million people around the globe use Google Translate, and the search giant says that the service makes up to 1 billion translations daily. Do you want to be among the few who paid for their service, or among the hordes of millions who use free translation apps?

Me, I wouldn’t waste a dollar on paid translation apps, no matter what they claim or how fancy they look on my phone. Here’s my frugal 2 cents as to why I’d rather plan my vacation spending time learning a new language, than waste a dollar or more purchasing an app for my phone on an impulse buy. Why? Well, because you can get the best for free.

Free is Goed

“Goed” is good in Dutch. I used Google Translate for that. It took me about, oh a little over 5 seconds. I used the browser version too. The reason I’m citing this example is you’re going to end up using the translation app for simple words only. Services like Google Translate do simple translations really well, but when you throw a complicated phrase their way or key in any colloquialisms, they self destruct like the computers they are. They’ll give you some words right, but in totality the whole phrase will mean gibberish. It’s quite funny, actually. I spent like 30 minutes on it translating Spanish to English and the results were amusing.

There are about 6,500 spoken languages in the world. 4,500 of which are common enough that a large number of people speak it. That’s a lot of linguistic programming and it would take decades for computers to understand what the heck humans are really talking about. They have an idea, based on the spoken words used, and compare these against their vast database, but for now, it’s always going to lack something.

The underlying reason for this lies in the algorithms these computers use. The engineers and programmers at Google and Microsoft are doing their very best to give us translation programs that can understand our language, but we’re probably years away from Star Trek. It’s just not in the cards for us to feel like we’re members of the USS Enterprise, holding a gadget that translates Klingon on the go.

So, if you’re planning to translate a whole document, especially a legal document or a school paper, you’re better off looking into certified translation services, rather than using something that’s free.

But Wait. There’s Mucho…

Holding a gadget that translates Klingon? On the go? Well, the technology is here, but barely. Apps like Google Translate (Android, iOS) and Microsoft Translator (Windows Phone) are two of the top free translation apps that you can point at any sign or menu and using your phones’ multi-gazillion mega pixel camera, presumably get the meaning. It works, up to a point. It still jumbled some of the tricky menus in Chinese, but it’s awfully useful in a pinch. Pretty handy when asking where the loo is in Russian, too.

Google just unveiled voice recognition in Google Translate. Just speak to the microphone and hear your words translated to the target language. For now though, it’s only limited to six languages: English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Italian, Russian and German. Google promises more languages in the future. Microsoft Translator has had the voice option for years; I don’t know what took Google so long.

How about the others? Well, you can also try Jibbigo, iTranslate and World Lens (Android, iOS). They have free and paid versions, but freeware is freeware, so don’t expect too much. I’d rather play with the established ones from Google and folks at Redmond.

Final Word

When it comes to a foreign language, well let’s say I wouldn’t entrust my whole trip on an app installed on my phone. Learning a language on your own is still the best way to get around in a foreign country. There is a multitude of ways to learn. You can take a crash course on basic Spanish for example, or even an online course on French and do everything remote. You can hire a tutor or ask a friend or relative to teach you the basics. Plus, there’s also those pocket guide books with maps and locations of the best bars. These mini books usually have some of the most common questions any tourist would ask, so feel free to get one. Borrow one or buy one, at least you’ll never run out of juice while exploring.

So, if you’re thinking about buying a translation app for your next trip, please don’t waste your money. The free options from Google and Microsoft are more than enough if you really want to use one.



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