Archive for the Category »road trip «

Sep
03rd
  Travel Tip Tuesday: Know Your Bridge Tolls When Traveling

SFOBB-East-span

The new east span of the Oakland-San Francisco Bay Bridge is open today – after years of retrofitting and rebuilding and a $6 billion dollar price tag. The original bridge was damaged in the 1989 Loma Prieta quake.

Travelers – when you drive through the Bay Area, there are about eight bridges you could potentially encounter depending on where you go. All the bridge tolls can get confusing. For example – there are different tolls for different times of day on the Bay Bridge.  And – most importantly, you need to have cash to cross the bridges, unless you pay in advance online. If you don’t have the cash, you will receive a violation notice in the mail with a $25 fee.

Here is where you can pay in advance online www.bayareafastrak.org/

To make things more confusing to visitors, the Golden Gate Bridge at the other end of San Francisco takes no cash whatsoever. It is an all electronic toll system – no stopping, no fumbling for cash, etc. If you don’t pay online before hand, you will be sent a notice with the amount you owe for the bridge crossing (based on your license plate.) Luckily, there is no additional fee on top of that.

For more info go to bata.mtc.ca.gov/tolls/index.htm

Happy Travels -

 

 

 
Aug
21st
  Tuesday Travel Tip: Labor Day Road Trip? Ladies: Learn How To Change Your Own Tire!
Labor Travel is in a week and a half… and this year AAA says holiday travel will hit a post-recession peak!

AAA says 33 million people will be hitting the road from Thursday, Aug. 30, to Monday, Sept. 3.  and 85% of those traveling will go by automobile.

Are you one of them about to embark on the Great American Road Trip? If so, here are some tips to get your cars ready -and have a smoother road trip! I recently had a short road trip where something went wrong, and was inspired to prevent other road woes :)

1) Check your tires – including your spare tire – make sure they are full for better gas mileage. Learn how to change a tire so you are prepared if you get stuck in the middle of nowhere. Ladies – listen up! It’s not that hard to do!

I was with a girl friend when we got a flat tire… we called the Automobile Club, and all of their agents were super busy – summer tends to be busier. After an hour of waiting, my friend turned to me and sealed the deal on our friendship. “Let’s do this ourselves.” Exactly! Women feel they can’t do something like this – but you can!!

It is better to practice before you go for confidence, but your car owner’s manual explains each step, and your car should have the needed equipment – a jack, wrench to loosen and tighten the lug nuts.  Here’s a link with photos : www.wikihow.com/Change-a-Tire

2) Get any funny noises checked before hitting the road. An ounce of prevention…

3) Keep a roadside emergency kit in your car – especially important if you have kids – They don’t have as much patience waiting for things to improve.

Here are some basics things to have

  • Jumper cables
  • Roadside flares
  • 2 or 3 quarts of oil
  • Gallon of anti-freeze
  • Flashlight
  • Bottled water
  • Paper towels
  • Blankets
  • Snacks
  • Phillips-head screwdrivers, vice grips, bailing wire to secure an errant muffler and a roll of duct tape. (I am not quite sure how I would use these – gotta be honest – but most people will tell you to! I’ll stick to the tires)
  • Deck of cards

3) Get some helpful apps  – here are two – and please anyone suggest others if you know:

—Fuel.It ($0.99) – ****This is great if you rent a car and have to fill it up before you get to the airport. It tells you where the cheapest gas is closest to you.

–Breakdown Lane from Car Talk ($1.99) – This app locates a consumer-recommended mechanic closest to where you break down, and provides a direct phone line.

5) Join a Travel Club – AAA or Better World Club are just two with benefits. If you are visiting amusement parks, remember to ask if you get a AAA discount – on the parking as well!

6) Pay attention to car gauges, watch the road, and put your smart phone in the back seat so you aren’t tempted to text or email. Even the smallest distraction could cause a fatal accident.

Be safe and enjoy your travels! Remember some good music – after all, you are on vacation!

 
Apr
17th
  Travel Tip Tuesday: An App for the Green Road Trip

How do you like paying $4 a gallon for gas? In some places, for instance where I live, it is quickly approaching $5. Sheesh – that summer road trip gets more expensive all the time. Maybe many of you travelers will consider an electric car soon???

I’m not on my soap box about it – I realize that the price of electric vehicles needs to come down… and we drivers want more mileage from one charge. But until that day comes… we still have some decent options:

2012 Chevrolet Volt

Chevrolet Volt can operate for about 35 miles on one charge…and an auxiliary gas option kicks in for an extra 375 miles.

2012 Ford Focus

The Ford Focus and Nissan Leaf can get about 100 miles on one charge – pretty darn good…

2012 Tesla

And the king of electric, the tony and expensive Tesla, can go for an amazing 300 miles.

A  report this week says consumers save about $700-$1000 a year on fuel costs with an electric car . You tell me – if you can afford one in the first place, is that enough savings to outweigh the hassles of recharging?

There is an app out to make electric car ownership easier – “Carstations” is a free, regularly updated app that uses Google Maps to help you locate a charging station. You can plan your trips around the locations.

If you are thinking that charging stations are about as plentiful as a drive thru Starbucks in the Mojave Desert,  well – that is changing too my revolutionary road trippers. Word is that Walmart, Ikea, and other retailers are going to add charging stations at their venues.

And by the way… Two other reasons to support the electric movement: fewer emissions… and less dependence on foreign oil.

One of my friends who will go unnamed to protect the innocent has a taken the plunge toward environmental enlightenment: He has a car that runs on natural gas – pretty impressive. He has a manual with all the charging stations and plans his trips accordingly… he just sometimes forgets his wallet, LOL.. That’s another way to save money on gas…but I don’t recommend it :)

For some good summer road trips & other ways to save money on fuel – The Automobile Club provides driving trips with maps, and tips. http://www.calif.aaa.com/en-ca/explore-travel/Pages/driving-trips.aspx

Are we there yet?

 
Aug
04th
  Road Trip: You wouldn’t believe what is in your pit stop meals!

My husband and his buddy just took all of our kids camping for a couple days. Camping is a ton of work  -  I give him credit. So I’ll let him slide on the many fast food stops they made on the way there and back due to bathroom stops, hunger pains, and ah yes.. even a flat tire now and then.

Gotta love my 9 year old daughter though. She came home and said “Mom – you wouldn’t believe the disgusting fast food we saw – Del Taco has chicken nuggets filled with mac and cheese (translation: fried mac and cheese) and funnel cake fried french fries.”

That was a moment of pride. Although it still takes work to make my kids appreciate vegetables – even from our garden – this was a sign of a break through.

On this very topic, I was astonished to read an interesting article on how bad some of these meals can be at fast food, or chain restaurants that you may normally stop at while traveling. For instance, the Italian Classic sandwich at Quizno’s has 1370 calories…86 grams of fat (holy cow!).. and 4490 mg of sodium. (OMG  - the recommended amount is between 1500-2200!)

This info is right out of “Men’s Health” magazine – pretty entertaining stuff that will make you think twice before you order those cheese fries at Outback Steak House. Check it out: http://www.menshealth.com/20worst/worstfood.html.

Another interesting article is “The 10 Most Unhealthy Fast Food Items on America’s Menus” http://www.dailyfinance.com/2011/06/15/the-10-most-unhealthy-fast-food-items-on-americas-menu/

But fear not you road warriors, moms and dads alike. There is a smart phone app to save you from fried food overloading. The “Good Food Near You” app lets you find healthy (or healthier anyway) meals near your locale. Type in your zip code and up will pop restaurant info and nutritional info about items.

You don’ t have to be neurotic about healthy food to enjoy this – sometimes if you had the knowledge of a healthier meal just around the corner, wouldn’t you choose it over the Kentucky Fried Chicken  right in front of you?

Go to the app store and search for “Good Foods Near You.” It isn’t perfect – users say that sometimes it merely lists the healthiest items at the fast food chains nearest you, instead of knowing of other alternatives. But that’s a start.  And… it’s free.

A Votre Sante!

 
Jan
11th
  Tuesday Travel Tip: Has a winter storm ever interrupted your travel? Here’s technology to help.

We’ve seen a few winter storms crippling regions this season – the latest moving from the south to the northwest today. Weather can easily disrupt travel plans – remember all the stranded passengers over Christmas trying to get in and out of Europe? So what can you do?

Here are some great websites and apps to help:

1)Next Flight app, available in the App store.

A friend of mine was supposed to go to London for Christmas break, but was delayed, and almost had to cancel, because she had problems rebooking her trip. One time her cell phone buzzed at 1 AM – yes AM – it was her airline canceling yet another flight due to weather. She immediately tried to rebook, but was on hold until 3AM, and finally gave up. Crazy, right?

This app can help you beat others to book the next flight: It brings you all available flights from all carriers and airports worldwide.

Once you provide your origin, destination & departure date, the application lists all the available flights for the selected day from all airline carriers including their departure and arrival timings.
It also shows you terminal & gate info so you need not hunt for information monitors at the airport.

2) Wunderground.com – a great tool for any upcoming ski trips. Click on “The Road Trip Planner,” enter your departure city, the route you are driving, and the estimated times you will be arriving at each stop. I tested this and typed in that I want to leave from Los Angeles and drive to Lake Tahoe. A map with driving directions appeared, with informative notations on the weather to help me plan. For example, when I hit the I5 freeway, there was “a chance of rain”. In other areas it warned me “drop below freezing” “chance of snow” or “snow”.

Another helpful tool on this site is the “Trip Planner”. (Different from the “Road Trip Planner.”) You enter the start and end dates of your trip, and the site accesses its database of historical weather conditions in your desired destinations. That’ll help with the packing!

3) Flight Track Pro – Tracks your flight in real time. Like Next Flight, it will help you find alternate flights. It has terminal maps for departing and entering. And my favroite feature, it will alert you for flight delays. I can’t tell you how many times I am alerted by the airlines of a five hour delay when I am half-way to the airport. $9.99 at App store.

4) If you are delayed, here are some educational apps to keep the kids entertained and enriched.

–Bookworkm: A bunch of word games… the app also keeps track of your kids’ history, their longest words, etc. $4.99 at APP store.

–NASA APP HD – This app provides thousands of images from NASA IOTD, APOD and NASAImages.org, on demand NASA Videos from around the agency,
Current NASA Mission Information, and other informative content. Free at the APP store.

–Wurdle – If you love the word game boggle, you will like Wurdle. It is a version of Boggle that you can download on your iphone. It is $1.99 at App store.

–Spell Bound – This $2.99 app really makes you think by challenging you with word/spelling problems. For example it will give you a variety of goals like:
• Spell 8 words of 6 or more letters.
• Use these letters in 4+ letter words: ABCDEFGHIJKLM.
• Spell 5 words of 3 or more letters starting with “BL”.

Race against the clock or play a casual, untimed game. Available at the App store.

–Pop Math – PopMath is a fun game for kids of all ages to practice basic math.

Pairs of bubbles float on the screen and your goal is to pop each pair. For example, one bubble says “7″ and another says “3+4″. Simply touch one bubble and then the other to pop them both.

At any time, you can choose different operators: addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.

Once you’ve popped all pairs on a level, you see your time for that level and can move on to the next level, or keep practicing that level.

.99 at the App store.

Happy and safe, no-delayed travels to you.

 
May
18th
  Need some help planning your summer vacation? Here are some great tools….

Summer is seriously upon us. LOVE IT. That means…gotta start thinking about a vacation.

While most Americans won’t give up a family vacation during a recession, many will pare down the trip staying closer to home or taking shorter, less expensive trips…like the classic road trip!

I know…you’re thinking – that’s not relaxing…but let’s face it, if you have kids, there are very few vacations that are actually relaxing. Kids make you truly appreciate what a real vacation is.

At least there are some ways to make the planning less stressful -

I love the Automobile Club’s TripTik tool. On AAA’s website, (www.aaa.com) go to the trip planning section for help plotting your road trip. Once you list the stops you might like to include on your road trip (whether they be cities, main attractions, national parks, etc) TripTik will plot out the total mileage of the trip and how long it will take. It also tells you how many miles between stops and the drive time between each.

A map of the United States will display your route. You can find attractions, hotels, gas stations, auto repair shops, construction info, and scenic byways along the way with the click of  a button. If you want to experiment with a different route to see something off your chosen path, just drag an arrow to where you’d like to go instead. Completely user-friendly in case you are techno-challenged :)

If you are a member of any branch of the Auto Club, you can save your trip, and your different versions of it so each time you log on to the website you can access it. Believe me, using it helps you make a realistic estimate of how much time your trip will take.

Another great tool is the website www.discoveramerica.org. There you can find may of the things you would find on TripTik, but since DiscoverAmerica is the official tourism site of the United States, you can find more seasonal activities like festivals. There are also photos, and stories by other fellow travelers who have ventured to your desired location.

Lastly, there are a few websites dedicated to finding the cheapest gasoline. That is especially handy because starting Memorial Day weekend, gas prices typically go up!  If you have a large gas guzzling vehicle  - RV?- full of kids and luggage this is another reason to find cheap gas.

www.mapquest.com is one helpful website…go to the area where you can check gas prices.This is great if you have wifi in your hotel, or get it somewhere while on the road because you can type in the exact intersection where you are and find the prices nearby. Another website is www.gasbuddy.com…however, when I tried to find gas prices in some major cities, or small towns, there was nothing. This website relies on other drivers to report what they have found.

Happy and safe travels!

 
Apr
27th
  Tuesday Travel Tip: An RV trip with the family sounds fun, right? There are things you should definitely know before you go.

Our RV in Zion Natl park

Happy 100th Birthday to the RV….According to the RV Association, this year marks the centennial.

The kids had fun..

I’ve taken two RV trips, and we drove with other families..our thinking was that would be the fun part, being together with other kids and adults. One trip was from Los Angeles to Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks in Utah..and the other was shorter, from Los Angeles to the San Bernadino Mountains in Southern California.

Just because I travel  a lot doesn’t mean that everything always goes smoothly…so if you are thinking about doing the same thing, here are some things to consider:

1) On one trip, our friend and beloved driver, was not used to the size of the RV…so about a half hour into the trip, he made a turn and ran over a curb, consequently resulting in a flat tire. Minor glitch, right? Wrong – we spent hours trying to find a company equipped with the oversized RV tire to come change it. Make sure you ask about that when you rent your RV – where can you call if you get a flat tire? The rental agency might have a better idea of mechanics that can help – and perhaps a chain of them so if you are travelling far you know a helpful source.

2) Nice segue into this tip: remember your RV is a lot different to drive – you can’t take sharp turns, and you have to remember the RV is a lot taller than your Prius. Watch the overhangs and tree branches.

3) Make sure everything is in working condition before you go. It was sooo pleasant when our air conditioning went out while driving through the California desert for three hours.

4) Look into special features each RV may have – they aren’t always your grandfather’s RV. There are nicer models for a higher price that come with things like an electronic system that enlarges the living space with a press of a button. To be used, of course, only when you are not driving.

5) If you are renting an RV for summer, reserve early. They book up – spontaneity or procrastination are not two qualities that successfully go hand in hand with RV renting.

6) Consider buying insurance from the rental company. Check first with your auto insurance policy or credit card to see if you are covered with the policy for which you are already paying.

7) Consider a one way rental…. and I mean seriously consider it, especially if you have kids and you are going a long way. If you thought cooking out of the little kitchen, keeping the kids entertained, cleaning up in the space, and dumping your own toilet and sink waste was tiring, it looks like even more work on the way back. The trip is over and you just want to get home. Look into a drop off situation where you leave the RV at your destination and fly home if you can afford it. There may be a drop off fee, but some rental companies only charge during high season.

Happy Travels -