With $4 Gas, Road Trips Are Still On

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The great American road trip is on--even with $4 gas. Traveling a few hours from home to see local sights is still affordable, and Frommer's® Travel Guides can help reveal where to drive to without breaking the bank.

The great American road trip is on--even with $4 gas. Traveling a few hours from home to see local sights is still affordable, and Frommer's® Travel Guides can help reveal where to drive to without breaking the bank.

You can't assume fuel is "free" any more. But especially when you pack people into the car, or drive a fuel-efficient car, driving still compares favorably to the price of bus and train tickets for nearby day or weekend excursions. We've analyzed several trips from four major American cities, taken by three sample people: Patty Prius, driving all alone in her fuel-efficient 2006 hybrid; the Camry Couple in their trusty 2006 Toyota; and the Ford Family, two adults and three children in a 2006 Explorer SUV. We took local average gas prices from GasBuddy.com.

As you'll see below, taking to the road can still make sense if you have your own fuel-efficient car and you plan to take your buddies or kids along for the ride. But if you plan to drive alone in a gas guzzler, or you balk at car-rental fees, it makes sense to hop on a train or a bus. Frommer's Guides always have the latest directions both by roads and public transit to the world's top destinations, helping you decide how best to make your way.

New York City's great public transit system makes driving a car an unnecessary hassle. Frommers' book, Great Escapes from NYC Without Wheels (Wiley, 2006, $16.99) offers dozens of ways to get out of the city, including romantic weekends, spa escapes, food and wine adventures and trips to historic country towns.

You can take a gamble on Atlantic City for a good time, and you don't have to bring the car. New Jersey Transit offers frequent trips to Atlantic City from the Port Authority Bus Terminal in midtown Manhattan for $29.85 each way. If you intend to gamble, you can do even better with Academy Bus, who offset their $35 fare with $20 credits at various casinos. Or bring some friends to split the cost of gas, and use the leftover cash for another hand of poker. Driving to Atlantic City, including gas and New York City bridge tolls, costs $27 round-trip for Patty Prius, $38 ($19/person) for the Camry Couple, and $61 ($12.20/person) for the Ford Family.

Who knew there's art even beyond the boundaries of New York City? The denizens of Cold Spring and Beacon, NY do. These two towns on the scenic Hudson River are home to charming cafes, B&Bs, antique stores and a huge modern art museum, Dia:Beacon. Stop by the museum in Beacon first, then hop back in your car for a seven-minute ride to Cold Spring, where the eight-block downtown looks like a postcard of historic Americana. The two towns are easy to access as a day trip from New York, served by the frequent Metro-North Hudson Line, with round trip tickets costing $34. Via car, you will expect to pay $10.16 round-trip for Patty Prius, $15.61 ($7.80/person) for the Camry Couple, and $26.55 ($5.31/person) for the Ford Family.

For more escapes from New York City, pick up Frommer's Great Escapes from NYC Without Wheels (Wiley, 2006, $16.99).

Washington, DC is a notoriously difficult city for drivers with its myriad of diagonal avenues and one-way streets. But the surrounding states of Maryland and Virginia, both covered by Frommer's Guides, offer plenty of top day trips and weekend getaways that gets you, and your car, out of the city for only a few dollars.

Baltimore, Maryland has always had a bit of an inferiority complex compared to its more powerful neighbor to the south, but Frommer's has been singing about the charms of Charm City for years. Affordable restaurants, quirky museums, and a terrific aquarium makes Baltimore a great day trip for all ages. To get from DC to Baltimore without a car, your best bet is to take the MARC commuter train on weekdays for $14 round trip, or Amtrak on weekends for $28. Once you arrive, riding the city's tourist-centric water taxi is a big part of the fun. Round trip driving for Patty Prius costs $6.89 in gas; for the Camry Couple, it's $10.68 ($5.34/person); and for the Ford Family it's $18.16 ($3.63/person).

For a weekend away from DC, Colonial Williamsburg, Jamestown and Yorktown offer three opportunities to steep yourself in history. Take some time to duck back into the 18th Century in restored Williamsburg and Jamestown. If you need to raise your pulse, pop over to the Busch Gardens water park for a few rides on the slides. Twice-daily Amtrak trains from DC drop you in Colonial Williamsburg for $70 round trip per person, and there you can pick up public shuttle buses to Jamestown, Yorktown, and Busch Gardens. Driving to these sites is also relatively affordable from DC. Gas would cost $25.28 for Patty Prius; $38.27 ($19.14/person); for the Camry Couple and $65.08 ($13.01/person) for the Ford Family.

For more top day and weekend trips from the DC area, pick up Frommer's Virginia, 9th Edition (Wiley, 2008, $18.99) or Frommer's Maryland & Delaware, 8th Edition (Wiley, 2008, $17.99).

San Francisco is surrounded by charming towns and gorgeous countryside, and driving down the California coast is one of the most scenic road trips in America. You can also tour towns and taste local wines by bus and train--and you won't have to worry about a designated driver.

Just a short way up the bay from San Francisco is the former hippie haven of Berkeley, still home to a beautiful college campus, extensive parks, world-class restaurants and eclectic shopping. And the weather is guaranteed to be 10 degrees warmer on the east side of the Bay. It's easy to get to Berkeley on BART subway trains, which run several times an hour for $6.80 round trip. It will cost Prius Patty $5.19 to drive to Berkeley, the Camry Couple $6.16 ($3.08/person), and the Explorer clan $7.70 ($1.54/person).

Head south from San Francisco by car or transit and you've got a full weekend of activities in the Monterey area. Grab a hotel in Monterey and hit the aquarium, then take a Monterey-Salinas transit bus down to to Big Sur or on the Carmel Valley Grapevine Express, which runs every hour and passes ten tasting rooms. An MST "Super Daypass" only costs $9 from San Jose. A full weekend costs as little as $33 per person via public transit, including CalTrain service from San Francisco to San Jose. Driving to Monterey from San Francisco will cost $37.65 for Patty Prius, $56.85 ($28.43/person) for the Camry Couple and $96.67 ($19.33/person) in that gas guzzling Ford Explorer! With plenty of wine tasting rooms down the coast and charming B&Bs, this outing may be well worth the ride if you plan for an overnight trip.

For more tips on great San Francisco side trips, pick up Frommer's California 2008 (Wiley, 2008; $21.99) or Frommer's San Francisco 2008 (Wiley, 2008; $16.99).

The "Big D," Dallas isn't known for its public transportation--but maybe it should be. Recent improvements in the city's bus and trolley system means it's possible for visitors to enjoy the city without driving on the wide roads Texas is known for.

Our top day trip from Dallas, Fort Worth has a charmingly renovated downtown, world-class museums and the Stockyards Historic District, part Old West theme park and part living history museum. It's safe to say that if Dallas is Texas leaping forward into the 21st Century, Fort Worth still has a smiling eye on the 19th. It's only an hour between the two cities on the swift, efficient TRE train, and a day pass costs only $5/person. When you get to Fort Worth, "the T" bus shuttles you between attractions. The round trip price for Patty Prius costs about $5; for the Camry Couple, around $8 ($4/person); and for the Ford Family around $14 ($2.80 /person).

If you want to extend your trip out of Dallas, getting from Fort Worth to Grapevine without your car is half the fun. Frommer's recommends the Grapevine Steam Railroad, running a steam or diesel locomotive with vintage coaches from Fort Worth to the Old West town of Grapevine, once daily on Fri-Sun for $14. According to our experts, the railroad is one of Texas' top travel experiences! However, to return from Grapevine, you'll need to take a $20 taxi ride to the DFW airport and connect there to the TRE train. To get to Grapevine for the day by car, gas will cost $3.80 for Patty Prius, $6.03 ($3.01/person) for the Camry Couple or $10.27 ($2.05/person) for the Ford Family.

For more adventures around the Dallas metroplex or further afield in Texas, pick up Frommer's Texas, 4th Edition (Wiley, 2007; $19.99).

Great Escapes from NYC Without Wheels (Wiley, 2006, $16.99, ISBN: 978-0-7645-9829-6)

Frommer's® Virginia, 9th Edition (Wiley, 2008, $18.99, ISBN: 978-0-470-17591-6)

Frommer's® Maryland & Delaware, 8th Edition (Wiley, 2008, $17.99, ISBN: 978-0-470-18985-6)

Frommer's® California 2008 (Wiley, 2008; $21.99, ISBN: 978-0-470-13734-5)

Frommer's® San Francisco 2008 (Wiley, 2008; $16.99, ISBN: 978-0-470-14437-4)

Frommer's® Texas, 4th Edition (Wiley, 2007; $19.99, ISBN: 978-0-470-14437-4)

About Frommer's®
The market leader in travel guides, Frommer's has a guide for every type of traveler--from the sophisticated world traveler to the first-time student traveler on a tight budget. Frommer's publishes more than 300 guides and sells 2.5 million guides annually, reaching 7 million travelers who count on Frommer's for exact prices, savvy trip-planning, sightseeing advice, dozens of detailed maps, and candid reviews of hotels and restaurants in every price range. Frommer's--the best trips start here. Frommers.com is a comprehensive, opinionated travel resource featuring more than 3,500 world destinations. For more information, visit frommers.com. Frommer's is a registered trademark of Arthur Frommer. Frommer's is a branded imprint of Wiley.

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