Summer is traditionally travel season, and the tradition remains strong even in these days of job losses, housing foreclosures and manufacturing downturns.

The upside to families visiting that favorite vacation spot, be it Grandma and Grandpa’s house or a to-die-for cabana on the Pacific near Mazatlan, is that gas prices remain well below 2008’s astronomical $4 a gallon or more.

These prices, which are also sparking a renewed interest in bigger vehicles (think crew-cab trucks and family-sized SUVs like the Ford Flex reviewed on Roadtripsforfamilies.com), average $2.72, offering hope that the family road trip is not a thing of the past (we weren’t all that fond of staycations anyway, were we?).

Of course, even at $2.72, there are ways to economize on fuel and vehicle costs. Atautocar.com wisely recommends opening the window when cruising through towns, but closing windows and turning the AC back on once you return to the open road and average highway speeds.

If your entire vacation involves traveling – for example up or down the Mississippi to some of America’s most historic and beloved landmarks (i.e., Hannibal, Missouri, of Mark Twain fame) – you might even want to consider renting an RV, which will provide almost the right amount of space between battling siblings. Familyfun.go.com offers a preview of the experience, including several good reasons to rent instead of buy.

The best reason? A cost of almost $60,000 for a vehicle that gets used perhaps two weeks a year, and spends the rest of its life taking up driveway space. Equally as important, a rental RV that breaks down won’t cost you an arm and a leg, as the rental agency will likely have a list of auto repair firms along your route that have been pre-approved to provide superb service at reasonable rates.

This is like having your own reliable, hometown mechanic traveling with you. The difference is you don’t have to feed him or listen to him grumble when he skins a knuckle.

Ed. note: Of course, mechanics recommended by CarHelp.com  NEVER grumble.

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