THE HELP DESK The Help Desk: Top Tips

Summer travel tips

What you can expect on the road and how to get to your destination for less money and with fewer headaches.

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By Gerri Willis, CNN personal finance editor

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NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- More Americans are expected to travel by car this holiday season - an estimated 2.5% more than last year or 27 million people. And, even though gas has jumped by 30 cents a gallon over the past month, it's still far below last summer's $4 a gallon price levels.

Given the fact that prices have been rising at a rate of a penny, to a penny and a half, each day for the last few days, we could see prices in the range of $2.40 that's according to AAA.

The good news - AAA isn't expecting gas prices to rise too much more. Certainly nowhere near last year's levels of more than $4 a gallon. AAA national spokesman Troy Green said he would be surprised if prices hit $3 a gallon this summer because the recession is constraining demand.

Remember, prices usually go up over holidays and during the summer - the question is just by how much.

To find price averages in your area, go to fuelgaugereport.com.Gasbuddy.com and mobgas.com will text message you with the lowest prices in your area so you can compare prices from the road.

There are a lot of great Web sites to inform you about travel conditions - to avoid traffic jams and congestion.

First off, AAA.com will generate a free trip tik (click on "trip tik planner"); travel directions will show you the typical bottlenecks on your route. Using its "route modification tool," you can design a route around the mess.

Check out the Federal Highway Administration's Web site, fhwa.dot.gov, to find out conditions along your route, including commuter forecasts and where the tie ups are. At the site you can also hook up to live traffic cams to see what's going on.

Finally, to get an estimate of your total gas costs on your trip, go to gasprices.mapquest.com, and click on the gas price calculator. (You'll need to know your car's fuel efficiency.)

And a few tips to save money while on the road:

Switch to synthetic motor oil, if you aren't already using it. It costs a little more but it makes your engine more efficient and you'll use less gas.

Also, check your gas cap. About 17% of cars on the road have caps that are damaged or loose, or even missing. That causes gas to vaporize - some 147 million gallons of gas are estimated to be lost into thin air each year.

Finally, you can always book a train. Amtrak is reducing fares for Northeast corridor travels for the summer!

Got a financial dilemma? Go to cnnmoney.com/helpdesk to submit questions, read the Help Desk articles and check out new Help Desk videos. And tune in to CNN's Newsroom Tuesdays and Fridays, when Gerri Willis and other experts answer your questions. To top of page

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