Prices are unseasonably high at the gas pump this holiday season, according to AAA.

Still, more than 1.8 million Arizonans – or nine in 10 travelers – will be driving to their winter holiday destinations this year. To help keep drives more cheery and less costly, AAA Arizona is offering motorists gas-saving tips for their final 2010 road trip:

•Turn to technology. “Shop around” is a common money-saving adage, but when it comes to gasoline, scouting different stations can cost you extra fuel. Use technology to find the cheapest gas in your area or budget fuel costs;

• Maintain a gas-friendly vehicle. Underinflated tires can not only be dangerous, but they can also reduce fuel economy as much as 2 percent. According to a recent Rubber Manufacturer’s Association survey, 55 percent of vehicles have at least one underinflated tire, and 85 percent of U.S. drivers do not properly check their tire pressure. To check tire pressure, check all tires – including the spare – when they are cold. Make sure pressure levels match those found in the owner’s manual or on the driver’s door jamb.

You should also verify in the manual whether or not your car is due for an oil change or an engine tune-up. Ensuring your car is on the right maintenance schedule can help preserve the fuel-efficiency of your ride;

• Lighten your load. While hauling gifts to and from your holiday destination may make this easier said than done, reducing the weight of your vehicle can improve your gas mileage. After packing the essentials, including your winter emergency roadside kit, look for non-essential items to remove from your vehicle. Also, avoid stacking luggage on the roof of your car to prevent drag and maximize fuel economy;

• Drive it like you own it. Speeding and rapid acceleration can lower gas mileage by almost 33 percent at highway speeds and 5 percent around town, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. The agency also says gas mileage decreases quickly beyond speeds of 60 mph, and that for every five mph you drive over 60 mph is like paying an additional 24 cents per gallon for gas.

Use cruise control on the highway, so long as conditions are clear of ice and snow, to maintain steady speed and save gas. Also, keep a safe distance behind you and the car in front of you to save you from sudden brakes and higher risk of collision. Slowing down and driving conservatively will help you save money, and most importantly, stay safe.

• Save where you spend. Many grocery stores and retailers now host their own gas stations, or partner with others, and reward customers who frequent their stores.

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