5 Tips for Efficient Holiday Travel, No Matter How Far Away You Roam

5 Tips for Efficient Holiday Travel, No Matter How Far Away You Roam

Let's Save Energy

Alliance to Save Energy's Blog

12/06/21 / Lizzie Stricklin

5 Tips for Efficient Holiday Travel, No Matter How Far Away You Roam

Holiday Driving

Out of all the Christmas songs playing on the radio every year, my family has always loved hearing Perry Como’s “Home for the Holidays.” As he sang about traveling down the east coast, we would be doing exactly that — taking the long trip down the interstate from Pennsylvania to South Carolina to visit family each year, racking up memories, but also miles and money spent on gas along the way. 

This is the time of year that many Americans are making similar treks to take vacations or meet up with family for the holidays. And as the second year of the pandemic grinds to a close, this may be the first time you’re gearing up the car for a long trip. As our holiday gift to you, we’ve compiled some tips to help you avoid pain at the pump as you drive out into the cold weather.

1. Check your tire pressure.

Underinflated tires are always a threat to your gas mileage, but can be especially inefficient in the winter —  for every 10 degrees Fahrenheit drop in temperature, tires will lose about 1 psi of pressure. Keep an accurate tire pressure gauge in your glove box and inflate your tires to the pressure listed in your owner’s manual. Check your tire pressure often while the weather is cold.

2. Be a patient driver.

Holiday traffic is inevitable. When you’re stuck in stand-still traffic, minimize idling your car for more than 10 seconds by turning off your engine instead. According to the Department of Energy, “Idling can use a quarter to a half gallon of fuel per hour […] adding up to three cents of wasted fuel a minute.” Since it only takes about 10 seconds worth of fuel to restart your car, turning off the engine will save more fuel.

Be aware of efficiency even when you have room to zoom on the highway. Speeding, rapid acceleration, and braking “can lower your highway gas mileage by 15% to 30% and your city mileage by 10% to 40%,” according to DOE. Try using cruise control on the highway to maintain a constant, efficient speed. Avoid driving at high speeds if possible, as gas mileage drops rapidly above 50 mph. 

3. Pack light and tight.

A heavier car will be less efficient to drive! According to DOE, “An extra 100 pounds in your vehicle could increase your gas costs by up to $.03 cents per gallon.” Pack items away inside your car or your trunk, as roof racks cause drag that can “decrease your fuel economy by up to 8% in city driving and up to 25% at interstate speeds.” If necessary, opt for rear-mount cargo boxes or trays instead, which reduce fuel economy by much less. Remember to remove external cargo containers when not in use.

4. Turn down the hot water heater before you travel.

Water heating can be the second largest energy expense in your home, “accounting for about 18% of your utility bill,” DOE reports. By lowering the temperature of your hot water heater just 10 degrees Fahrenheit, you can save up to 5% on water heating costs. Set your water heater for 120 degrees Fahrenheit before you leave the house for your holiday travels.

5. Need a new car? Consider putting a big red bow on an EV. 

If you’re looking to buy a new car for the holidays, think about purchasing an electric vehicle. According to Consumer Reports, electric car owners “can expect to save an average of $800 to $1,000 a year on fueling costs over an equivalent gasoline-powered car.” Electric vehicle production is growing and electric vehicles dominated DOE and the Environmental Protection Agency’s 2022 Fuel Economy Guide as some of the most fuel-efficient cars. Federal tax credits — like 30D — can cover up to $7,500 in credit for the purchase of a plug-in electric vehicle. Additional EV tax credits, which would cover up to $12,500 in credit, are being considered for the Build Back Better Act. You can learn more about funding for EV provisions in the Build Back Better Act with our factsheet

Your holiday drive home this year doesn’t have to include dreading the cost at the gas station. By following these tips, you can save energy and money on your drive and focus on happily reaching your destination. After all, in the wise words of Perry Como, “If you want to be happy in a million ways… For the holidays, you can't beat home sweet home!”

Learn more about how the Alliance is supporting energy-efficient transportation with our 50x50 Transportation Action Network. And for more tips on saving energy at home, check out our advice for tackling rising energy costs this winter.





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