Tag Archives: Tips and Tricks

Money saving tips for your next road trip

Whether you're packing up your RV for a trip with the whole family or setting out alone in a two-seater convertible, road trips are one of the great American traditions. While many chose to drive to their destinations because they love the open road, there are plenty of people who see driving as a more affordable alternative to flying. Either way, saving a few bucks on gas is something just about anyone can get on board with. On that note, here are a few tips to get you to your destination as inexpensively as possible:

Take it easy
Getting every mile out of each gallon of gas is one of the best ways to save money while you're on the road. Putting a little extra care in your driving style will help you do just that. In general, you should avoid stomping on either the accelerator or the brakes – obviously, the latter tip should be ignored in an emergency – as both will lower the fuel efficiency of the car. If you see a red light or some traffic congestion up ahead, don't speed towards it and then slam on the brakes to screech to a halt at the last second. Rather, try to coast in as gently as possible. Then, when the light turns green, don't peel out like you're in a drag race. 

Slow down
Cars and trucks tend to be most gas efficient when they are traveling somewhere between 40 and 60 miles per hour. Of course, driving 45 miles per hour is probably unsafe for most major highways, so don't sacrifice safety for fuel efficiency. However, be aware that the faster you drive, the more gas you're going to use. Cruising along at 90 miles per hour is not only unsafe and could land you a speeding ticket, but will cost you at the pump as well.

Proper tire inflation
If you take good care of your tires, your tires will take care of you. The importance of properly inflated tires cannot be overstated. If you let your tires get too low – something that happens naturally, not just when there is a leak or puncture – the car's fuel efficiency will suffer, because there will be greater rolling resistance and the engine will have to work harder to get the car moving. On the other hand, an overinflated tire puts you at risk of a dangerous blowout. 

Now we're getting into some classic NASCAR tricks. Professional racers draft behind other cars to cut down the wind resistance, making their cars faster and more efficient. You can try the same thing on the road if you're careful. Drive at a safe distance behind a semitruck and you should see a couple more miles per gallon. 

Use your GPS
Unless you're driving a route that you're extremely familiar with, plug your trip into a GPS. First of all, it will prevent you from getting lost and using up gas traveling in the wrong direction. Plus, you can stick to the shortest possible route, which should keep you from needing to stop at the pump as often. Stick to major highways as much as possible to avoid the stop-and-go traffic that comes with smaller towns and traffic lights. 

Time your trip
We've all watched gas prices rise and fall – mostly rise – seemingly at will. There isn't a whole lot you can do about overall gas prices, but you can find some patterns. For example, gas prices tend to rise on weekends and in the days surrounding holidays. If possible, plan your trips so they don't coincide with these days.

Find deals
There are lots of ways to save money on the road aside from making your car as fuel efficient as possible. Doing a bit of research before you take off can pay off in dividends. A quick Internet search can point you to lots of hotels that offer special deals with your stay. For example, you may be get a gift card or coupon for discounted gas when you check out. Another trick is to download one of many smartphone apps that find prices at nearby gas stations. Have your copilot search around to find the cheapest gas in the area when it comes time to fill up.

Protect your belongings
Though you may not take it into account when you're budgeting out your road trip, having your valuables stolen while you're at a gas station or hotel can not only be devastating, but extremely pricey. If you're using a roof cargo container, make sure it is securely locked at all times. If you have anything of particular value – important paperwork, electronics, cash or a firearm – bring along a portable safe to make sure no one can make off with your belongings. Look for one that has a heavy-duty cord that can anchor it to your car so it can't be removed by a thief. 

Is your RV ready for spring?

With spring right around the corner, you may be mentally preparing for the hiking and camping trips you have planned once winter is through. If you're like millions of Americans, you've probably got your recreational vehicle stored away for the winter and are itching to hit the road. Before you do, here are a few tips to make sure your RV is as ready for a trip as you are:

If you live in a climate that tends to see sub-freezing temperatures each winter, hopefully you've winterized your RV. The first step to getting your vehicle ready for the spring is to flush the antifreeze out of the fresh water system. To do this, simply open each of the vehicle's faucets and drains and run fresh water through the system until the antifreeze is completely cleared.

It's a good idea to then sanitize your water system to ensure the water is safe for you and your family. To do this, you'll first have to close all of the faucets and plug the drains. Then, mix a quarter cup of bleach for every 15 gallons your water tank holds. Open the faucets and allow them to run until you can smell the bleach, then shut them off again. Don't touch anything for at least 12 hours while it soaks, then turn on your faucets one more time to allow the tank to drain. Just like with the antifreeze, you'll need to continue to run fresh water through the system until you can no longer smell any bleach.

Once your water system is ready to go, give the entire RV a thorough cleaning inside and out. Not only will this keep the vehicle looking sharp, but regularly clearing away dirt and grime will prevent buildup that has the potential to damage the coatings of finish on the RV. Weather permitting, opening the windows and doors for a few hours will help air out any musty smells.

Next, go through and check out any electronics, from the radio to the light over the bathroom mirror, to make sure everything is in working order. It's best to catch any issues while the RV is still parked at home instead of in a parking lot in the middle of South Dakota.

While on the road, you need to protect your belongings. If you already have a lockbox, check it over to make sure it's in good condition. Depending on what you are traveling with, you should consider investing in some kind of security box to protect things like jewelry, important paperwork or firearms.

Before driving your RV anywhere, it's important to check every tire, including any spares you carry. Because the weather cooled and then warmed back up as winter turned to spring, there's a good chance they are no longer properly inflated, so use a tire pressure gauge to check them and fill them up to the recommended level. You should be able to find the proper tire pressure posted near the driver's side door or in the owner's manual. If you drive on underinflated tires, your fuel efficiency will suffer, while an overinflated tire runs the risk of blowing out. While you're inflating them, check for any bulges, tears or bald spots, which can form when the vehicle is stationary for a long period of time.

You probably unplugged your dry cell, coach and chassis batteries before you stored the RV. Before reconnecting them, give them a good once-over. Inspect the terminals and clamps for corrosion, as well as the charge levels, which may have dropped while in storage. This is also a good time to replace any batteries in your smoke or carbon monoxide detectors.

Next, you'll have to change the oil and filters in your generator if you didn't do so before storing it. Before running the generator, be sure to check the exhaust system for any damage. Make sure you run the generator for about two hours before bringing it on the road.

It's no secret that rodents and other pests love to make homes in RVs and other vehicles in storage. If you used tape to cover any vents or openings, be sure to remove it before driving. You'll also need to check all of the nooks and crannies, like cabinets, closets and storage areas, for any critters that may have built a nest over the winter.

Just like any car, you need to run a general check on the engine to make sure everything is in good working order. The RV will likely require an oil change and will need to have its fluids topped off. While you're at it, check the wiper blades to see if they need to be cleaned or replaced.

Organizing your truck bed

If you’re a life long pick-up truck driver, you’ve probably spent many years attempting to get the truck of your bed perfectly organized before giving up and just tossing everything in haphazardly. Organizing your truck bed doesn’t have to be a difficult task. In fact, if you pick up the right products and stick to a plan, you’ll find you having a place for everything will make your life that much easier. Here are a few tips to get your truck bed organized:

Start with a lockbox

Of course, driving a truck can mean that anything in your bed is susceptible to thieving passersby. That’s why it’s essential that you invest in a good lockbox to store your valuables that don’t fit in your cab. You can get one that is customized to the make and model of your truck as well as what you plan to keep in it.

Consider a truck bed organizer

It’s inevitable that you’ll have a variety of odds and ends that find themselves floating around your truck bed making lots of noise and ending up out of reach. If you get yourself a good truck bed organizer, you’ll be able to sort everything into its own space, keeping them secure and easy to get to at a moment’s notice.

Cargo bars or nets

If you’re looking for a temporary or easily removable means to store your belongings in your truck, check out a cargo bar. They can easily be installed in any part of your truck bed and removed if you find you need the space. A cargo net is another easy way to keep things in place. If you’re tired of opening your tailgate only to have a half-dozen items roll out onto your driveway, a cargo net will help keep everything inside the truck.

Gear drawers

For those of you who keep lots of expensive equipment in your truck that you need regular access to, a gear drawer is a great option. When you’re driving or the tools aren’t needed, they are safely locked in a heavy-duty container that is completely encased, protecting them from the elements. When it’s time to grab what you need, just unlock the drawers and slide them out to get what you need. To further organize your belongings, it can be separated into two individual drawers.

Tips for protecting your valuables at home

Whether you’re off on a week-long road trip or away from home for a few hours to run some errands, you’ll want to safeguard your residence against burglars.

Your home holds much more than items with a high monetary value. It contains moments and many items that have significant sentimental value. Keeping thieves out of your home ensures that those valuables are protected from sticky fingers. Here are a few tips that may help with deterring burglars from targeting or successfully robbing your home:

Carefully store your lock boxes.
Keeping your valuables in a lock box goes a long way for keeping unwanted hands off your prized possessions. When storing your lockbox, be sure to hide it somewhere where burglars will not typically search for valuables. Additionally, when you’re on the road, be sure to store your valuables in a lockbox in your car so you can head off for a hike or a bite to eat without worrying about the safety of your belongings.

Keep your property pristine.
If you are going to be gone for a few days, have someone pick up your mail and newspapers. Additionally, enlist someone to take care of your landscaping. When thieves are scouting houses to rob, they look for signs that no one has been home for a while.

Invest in motion sensor lighting.
Consider installing exterior lights that come with motion sensors. They may give a potential thief the impression that you are actually home. Furthermore, you can be alerted if someone is sneaking around your home while you’re there.

Get to know your neighbors.
Your neighbors are there for more than borrowing a cup of sugar or a leaf blower. When you have a friendly relationship with your neighbors, they may be more inclined to inform you or the police of any suspicious people or occurrences on your property. When they are out of town, you can keep eye on their home to establish a mutually beneficial relationship.

Be proactive with your landscaping.
If you have a home with a lot of shrubs and trees, make sure they are properly trimmed, as overgrown foliage serves as a good hiding place for burglars skulking around your home. If you have considered adding a bush or two to your yard, lean on the conservative side to make your home a less desirable target.

Close your garage.
Open garages give potential burglars a view of the valuables stored in there, and they can act as a point of entry. If you are not in your garage for an extensive period of time, keep the door closed.

Shut your blinds and curtains.
It is nice to let some sunlight in during the day, but open blinds and curtains may give a thief a good peek at your valuables. Avoid creating an open view into your home by keeping the windows covered in any room you are not currently in and double-checking that all of your curtains and blinds are closed before you hit the road.

Packing tips for your next road trip

Taking a road trip is one of the great American experiences, whether you have a specific destination in mind or just want to take in the sights of the country. Here are a few packing tips to maximize the space in your car for your comfort:

Use your roof
If you are driving to a specific destination, utilizing storage containers on car roof racks is a great way to give yourself enough room to spread out in the car. Make sure you get one that locks securely. That way, if you are taking a multi-day road trip, you can just toss an overnight bag in the back seat and not have to worry about digging through piles of suitcases to find your toothbrush. 

Pack smart
Whether or not you can utilize roof cargo, it's important that you put some care into the order that you pack your belongings. Larger, bulky items that you probably won't need to get to during the course of your trip should always be arranged first. While your instinct is probably to use suitcases for everything, consider something softer. Duffel bags – or even garbage or plastic bags – are a great option for items like beach towels or clothes that you don't mind getting a bit wrinkled. The softer bags will allow you to pack more into a smaller space.

Keep things secure
If you're going to be stopping overnight at a hotel, make sure your valuables are kept safe. Whether you leave them in your car or in your hotel room while you go out to eat, it will give you peace of mind to know that no one can get to your things. Invest in laptop locks for your computers or a portable safe for small items like jewelry, passports or even a handgun. 

Be prepared
You never know what is going to happen out on the road, so make sure you are prepared for just about anything. When you're traveling in the summer, keep extra coolant on hand in case your car gets overheated. If it's the winter and you may run into bad weather, consider investing in snow chains. Double check your spare tire, and make sure you know how to change a flat. For yourself and your passengers, always make sure there is plenty of water and non-perishable food on hand. In addition, it's a good idea to have a flashlight, a first aid kit and jumper cables ready before setting off on a trip. 

Be smart with your smartphone
Nowadays, many of us rely on our smartphone for just about everything, and this is especially true for road trips. It's likely you'll use your phone for navigation, music and to chat with friends along the drive. Look into specific apps that may be helpful for traveling – there are plenty out there that offer traffic updates, can recommend restaurants in the area and can even tell you where the next gas station is. Let your passenger handle most of these tasks and always keep a charger in your car. Depending on where you're driving, consider bringing along an old-fashioned paper map as well. There are still plenty of places across the country that don't have cell service.

Stay comfortable
If your car is so stuffed that you and your passenger have to move your seats up to fit everything in, consider cutting down on luggage. Not only will you be uncomfortable crammed up against the dashboard, it also presents a real safety concern should you get in an accident. Plus, repacking the car for the return trip will be just as difficult, especially if you pick up any souvenirs along the way.

Winter hiking tips

For those of us who love the great outdoors, winter can be one of the best times for hiking. Familiar trails have a whole new look, plus there are far fewer people out and about that you have to work around. 

While you can simply set out with your hiking boots, back pack and your water during the warmer months, winter hiking takes a bit more preparation. Here are a few tips to make sure you're safe and comfortable while out in the cold:

Dress in layers
Of course, this isn't the first time you've heard this particular tip if you are a veteran hiker, but it can't be emphasized enough. Dressing for a hike in cold weather can be tricky because the amount of heat your body can generate may surprise you. However, you need to be protected from the wind and any precipitation to keep your body as dry as possible. Always have a base layer with fabric that is designed to wick moisture off of your body, while the outer layer should be a waterproof shell of some sort to keep you dry from the outside in and to block the wind. In between, depending on how cold it is or how strenuous your trail is, is where you can add or subtract layers. A fleece jacket is always a good option for insulation. 

Remember, no matter how many layers you put on, avoid cotton, as it sucks warmth away from your body as soon as it gets wet, a sure cause of hypothermia. 

Use proper footwear
Even if you have a pair of trusty boots that you love to hike in throughout the spring and summer, make sure to get yourself a new pair designed for winter hiking. They should always be above the ankle and waterproof, at the very least, and you may want to consider gaiters if the snow is more than a few inches deep. Wool blend socks are your best bet, as they will keep your feet toasty and dry quickly if they get wet. Remember to always bring an extra pair in your pack.

Keep your belongings safe
It's a good idea to leave your electronics in the car while you're on a hike – you never know what is going to get wet or frozen. Consider investing in a portable safe or laptop locks to be sure that everything is safe and secure, so you have peace of mind as you explore the trails.

Stay fueled
Hiking in cold weather can burn significantly more calories than a similar hike in the summer. Because of this, it's essential that you have lots of high-energy snacks to keep you fueled along the way. Plus, as you consume calories, you will help your body warm itself. Keep your snacks – especially those that can freeze – in your jacket or fleece pocket instead of in your backpack so your body heat can keep them from frosting over. Also, even though you might not feel as thirsty as you may while hiking in August, make sure you keep drinking water. Surprisingly enough, it's easier to get dehydrated during the winter because the air is so dry.

Be prepared for an emergency
Depending on where you're hiking, you may be at risk for avalanches or other hazards, and there is always the chance of an unexpected snowstorm moving in. Make yourself aware of weather forecasts, and be prepared for worst-case scenarios. Avoid hiking alone and be sure to carry a topographical map and compass, along with a first aid kit, fire starter, waterproof matches, a pocket knife and an emergency blanket. Finally, make sure you tell someone where you're going and when you expect to be back.