Category Archives: Travel

Planning the Ultimate National Parks Road Trip

My ultimate National Parks road trip will cost $923 in fuel charges

Cost2Drive 2.0 Helps By Quickly Calculating Fuel Costs

It’s National Park Week here in the US and so we’re spending a good bit of time looking at how people are using our popular trip planning application to plan trips to our national parks.  We were thrilled to learn that in the past year alone over 6,500 trips to national parks were planned on Cost2Drive.com, and we expect that number to rise considerably with the launch of our new National Park trip planning pages.

As expected out of the 6,500 trips the most popular parks were Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon with Yosemite placing a distant third.

We did, however, uncover an interesting trend; it appears that national parks go well together as nearly 10% of the routes entered started at one national park and ended at another.  I guess that’s to be expected with all the bucket-listers out there (I can almost hear Clark Griswold firing up the Wagon Queen Family Truckster), though it may also be due to the remoteness of some of the parks as well as the clustering in some parts of the Western US.

The ten most popular pairings were:

  1. Yellowstone & Grand Canyon
  2. Bryce Canyon & Zion
  3. Yellowstone & Grand Teton
  4. Death Valley & Sequoia and Kings Canyon
  5. Bryce Canyon & Grand Canyon
  6. Grand Canyon & Yosemite
  7. Grand Canyon & Zion
  8. Mount Rushmore & Yellowstone
  9. Death Valley & Yosemite
  10. Arches & Canyonlands

An interesting side note is that the most popular pairing, Yellowstone to the Grand Canyon, is also the most distant at 873 miles apart (the average distance between the paired parks was 386 miles or 7 hours of travel time).

Clark Griswold’s Wagon Queen Family Truckster from National Lampoon’s Vacation

I thought it would be fun to see what it would cost to drive my ultimate national parks road trip from my home in Washington, DC to Mount Rushmore to Yellowstone to Yosemite to the Grand Canyon and finally back to DC again.

It turns out it will cost $923 in fuel alone for the trip, cover nearly 6,000 miles and take nearly 100 hours of driving time.  If you’d like to see the results here’s a link to the route on the upcoming version of Cost2Drive.com, and feel free to try out the site by planning your own ultimate national parks road trip.  You can even share the results with friends on Facebook and Twitter.

Note: If you’re driving an RV, motorhome, motorcycle, lawn mower or any other vehicle not currently listed in Cost2Drive you can still use the site by clicking on the ‘can’t find your car’ link and manually entering the fuel information for your vehicle.

We hope everyone takes advantage of the free entrance fees by visiting at least one of our 397 national parks during National Park Week Apr. 21-29.

Happy Parking!

Ten Bizarre Facts About Our National Parks

There really isn't a Jellystone National Park

In Honor of National Park Week We Uncover Ten Bizarre Facts Related to our National Parks

  1. Dry Tortugas National Park is actually surrounded by water (it’s a group of seven islands off Key West).
  2. Conversely, Capitol Reef National Park is nowhere near the water, it’s in the middle of the desert in Utah.
  3. There are many US National Forests, but  Petrified Forest isn’t one of them (it’s a National Park).
  4. An event can be part of the National Park Service (i.e, the National Cherry Blossom Festival )
  5. There’s a high school among the National Parks (Central High School in Little Rock, AR)
  6. There are several National Parks outside the 50 states (but in US territories Guam, Northern Mariana Islands and American Samoa)
  7. National Parks aren’t limited to this planet…there’s a Craters of the Moon National Monument (though it’s actually in Idaho)
  8. Two National Parks have the word Devil in them (Devils Tower and Devils Postpile National Monuments)
  9. Several rivers and trails are designated as National Parks such as the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail that cuts across many states.
  10. A musical style can be designated a National Park as in the New Orleans Jazz National Historic Park.
  11. Extra Bonus: Jellystone really isn’t a National Park (we thought we’d clear this up as someone searched for it in our new national park pages).

Ten Myths About Our National Parks

Image

Old Faithful at Yellowstone National Park

In honor of National Park Week we debunk ten common misconceptions about our wonderful National Parks.

  1. Eruptions at Old Faithful are so reliable you can set your watch to them  (you may end up late for meetings as predicting the interval between eruptions has a margin of error of 10 minutes)
  2. Mount Rushmore is a National Park (it’s actually a National Memorial, but it is part of the National Park Service)
  3. The Grand Canyon is the most popular National Park (Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most-visited park with 8-10 million visitors each year)
  4. You can fish off the Fishing Bridge in Yellowstone National Park (fishing from the bridge  was prohibited in 1973)
  5. You can camp wherever you like in Yosemite National Park (though once true, unrestricted camping in Yosemite Valley is no longer allowed due to the damage it causes.)
  6. The National Park Service oversees 397 parks (they oversee 397 units which include 124 historical parks or sites, 75 monuments, 58 national parks, 25 battlefields or military parks, 18 preserves, 18 recreation areas, 10 seashores, four parkways, four lakeshores, and two reserves.
  7. All National Parks have entrance fees (Only 147 charge fees ranging from $5-$25, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is free as is Mt. Rushmore – though there is an $11 parking fee).
  8. You may encounter deadly tarantulas at Zion National Park (although tarantulas do inhabit Zion National Park, they are generally docile and if they do bite their venom is non-toxic to humans).
  9. Glacier National Park is full of glaciers. (it once was, but of the hundreds of glaciers that formed the dramatic landscape of Glacier National Park fewer than 25 active glaciers remain.)
  10. During National Park Week (April 21-29) it’s free to get in all 397 parks (wait…this one is True!  But while it’s free to get in all 397 parks, getting to them is another matter, especially with record-high gas prices.  That’s why we created our new National Parks trip-planning pages to help park lovers budget for their trip and save money along the wayCheck them out to begin planning your next visit to a national park).

Happy Parking!

Something Wonderful is Going to Happen

Shenandoah National Park is one of nearly 400 parks waiving entrances fees during National Park Week April 21-29

Early Access to Cost2Drive 2.0 for National Park Week

Here at Cost2Go we’ve been working on something for quite some time, something we think is wonderful, and we’re so eager to share it we’re not even going to wait until it’s finished (because nothing on the Web ever is).  We’re getting ready to launch an entirely new version of Cost2Drive.com, our popular trip planning application that has now been used by over 1 million people.

But before we do, we’re going to give park lovers a special sneak peak of the new site in honor of National Park Week.  We love our national parks, and during National Park Week (April 21-29) something even more wonderful is going to happen as entrance fees to all 397 national parks will be waived making it free to get in.  Unfortunately it’s not free to get to the parks, and so that’s where we come in by helping people plan their trips with our brand new national park pages.

Yellowstone National Park Page on Cost2Drive 2.0

These beautiful new pages cover the top 10 national parks that users searched for on Cost2Drive over the past 12 months, and they make it super easy to determine how much it will cost to drive to the parks based on the fuel efficiency of your car and current gas prices along your route.  They also help you save money by locating the cheapest gas at refueling points along the way (click on the gas pump icon to see the price and location) and by displaying the cheapest airfare so you can see if it’s cheaper to drive or fly to the park.

Results Page for trip to Zion National Park from Sacramento, CA

The new national park pages also display the top hotels, restaurants and attractions in (or near) the parks from TripAdvisor so you can start planning your entire trip directly from these pages, and if your favorite park isn’t among these ten, no problem. You can get all this helpful information for all 379 national parks by simply typing in the park name on the main page of Cost2Drive (note – Mount Rushmore isn’t a National Park, it’s actually a National Memorial) .

Below are links to the 10 brand new national park pages on Cost2Drive so you can plan your trip to the park in earnest and even share your plans with friends via Facebook or Twitter using our new ShareThis widget!

That’s all we’re going to say about Cost2Drive 2.0 for now, but we’ll be sharing much more in the coming weeks as something even more wonderful is coming –  Summer – and here at C2G we want to help you make the best of it!

What’s your favorite National Park?

Happy Parking!

Can Facebook REALLY Threaten Google in Search?

Only In The Most Lucrative Categories…

There’s been much speculation lately that Facebook is finally staffing up to take a shot at improving their internal search product, a product that many would agree has been woefully under utilized in the past.  Along with this comes the usual debate around social search:

  • What exactly is social search?
  • How compelling is it, both to users and advertisers?
  • Can it really compete with Google?

The answer to the last questions is ‘No’, and this would be a wonderfully short blog post should that be a complete answer…but it’s not.  Incorporating social signals in search can improve it in a way that is so exciting and compelling that Google has to not only be aware, but deeply concerned by it as well.

Social Influence in Purchase Decisions

For the uninitiated, much of the opportunity (or concern, depending on which side of the fence you sit) around social search has to do with how purchase decisions are influenced by your social connections.  Research has repeatedly shown that friends and family are big influencers in purchase decisions, and the larger the purchase the more these social connections are sought out for advice.

Given the above it’s not surprising so many companies in the larger priced categories such as travel, electronics and automotive have been aggressively experimenting with social media.  But how does this tie in with search?

It’s a Temporal Issue

Think about the last time your friend cornered you and forced you to view the photos from his recent trip to the Caribbean.  You probably enjoyed the first few photos of turquoise inlets and stunning sunsets, but your mind likely wandered around the fourth restaurant photo or the nineteenth beach shot.  The reality is this really isn’t all that relevant to you right now, but it might be very relevant to you the next time you’re planning a vacation.

The key is to aggregate and structure this content in a way that it can easily be retrieved when needed (sound like search yet?).  Companies like TripAdvisor have already built hugely successful businesses on the aggregation of anonymous content, just think how powerful this becomes when it gets plugged into your social graph.

Exhibit from Facebook's S-1 Registration filing

The above is from Facebook’s recent S-1 registration filing, illustrating the deep integration of Facebook’s social graph on TripAdvisor’s core site.  However what’s far more compelling than the main page integration is what happens when you search for a destination in the big white search box at the top of the page and can immediately see which of your friends have been to Paris, Cape Cod or South America.

It’s this social search experience that’s so compelling to consumers, and likely to cause the greatest amount of concern at Google, especially when you consider as much as 15% of Google’s total revenue is rumored to come from the travel industry.  Is it any wonder then that recently there have been rumors flying around regarding Google and Facebook expressing interest in acquiring TripAdvisor.

How is this Relevant to Automobiles?

Let me answer this by posing two questions.

  1. How many Facebook friends do you have?
  2. What cars do each of of them drive?

Question number two is the kicker, and I’ll bet the majority of people can name less than 10% of their friends’ vehicles.  And why should they? It’s really not important unless they’re searching for a new car, at which point it may become highly relevant and important.

Let’s say I’m searching for a new car and interested in finding out more about Infiniti’s G series.  If I type that query into Google I get the following results as part of their social search experience.

Google Social Search results for 'Infiniti G series'

The above social connections are pretty useless to me in my research of new cars to buy, however the following would be immensely useful.

Ideal Social Search Experience

For this to become viable, Google (or Facebook) would need to know one additional piece of data about you: what car you drive.

We think about this alot at C2G as over 1 million people have now entered this exact piece of information into our Galculator, and the volume is growing at a rapid rate.

Travel and Automotive represent two of the biggest advertising categories online.  What are your thoughts on social search?  Do you think Google has anything to worry about with Facebook’s latest moves?

Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Happy Driving!

Preparing for Oilmageddon

Kuwait Oil Fires 1991 (US Air Force)

Panic Sets In as $4 Gas Prices Begin Appearing Across the US

Back in February of last year there was growing concern that unrest in the Middle East would result in record gas prices come the peak summer driving season, a scenario that nearly occurred as gas prices approached the $4 record set in the summer of 2008 but fell back after peaking at $3.90 in May.

We may not be as lucky this year as gas prices are well ahead of where they were in February of 2011, and $4 gas prices have already been spotted across the continental US in places like New York, Chicago and several locations in California.

Many analysts feel gas prices will exceed $4 a gallon across the US as early as this spring and reach as high as $4.50 by the peak summer months, possibly even $5 if tensions continue to build with Iran.  The press has picked up on this in a big way especially as it factors into the upcoming presidential election.

Not surprisingly, visits to our popular fuel calculator app are soaring as consumers grow increasingly concerned about high gas prices and how they will impact things like upcoming vacations, commuting costs or car purchases.  In fact January visits to Cost2Drive were more than double January 2011 and up 25% from December, and so far February visits are 20% higher than January.

But we’re not resting on our laurels, we’re getting ready to launch a whole new version of Cost2Drive.com with some great new features and a much improved visual design that we’re certain will delight our most fervent users.

Stay tuned for some news of the launch which we’ll be rolling out in the coming weeks.  Meanwhile, we’ve recently enhanced our mobile app so if you have an iPhone check out the Cost2Drive iPhone app and never again wonder what it will cost to drive places.

Happy Driving!

Snowbirds Flock to Cost2Drive Amid Soaring Gas Prices

                                                           Thousands of Florida-Bound Car Travelers Turn to Cost2Drive.com for Help  Planning Trips as Gas Prices Reach Historic Highs

As travelers begin planning their winter vacations in earnest, each week thousands are turning to our popular fuel calculator website and iPhone app for help planning their car trips as gas prices reach historic highs for this time of year.  Visits to Cost2Drive.com have doubled as a result and so we decided to examine over 10,000 trips entered on the site during the first week of January to find out where all these travelers are heading in the new year.

The Migration Pattern of the Snowbird

It turns out that over 20%  of all the trips entered on Cost2Drive.com in the first week of 2012 have somewhere in Florida as the destination.  So where are all these sun worshipers coming from? Most are snowbirds coming from the Midwest and Northeast driving down to Florida to escape the long cold winters up north.  New York was the state with the largest volume of routes representing 11% of all Florida-bound trips, followed by Michigan at 7% and Illinois, Ohio and Pennsylvania, all at 6%.

Snowbird Migration Pattern as Entered on Cost2Drive.com

Car travelers from Boston, New Jersey and Texas represented 5% of all Florida-bound routes, followed by road trippers from Wisconsin, Indiana and neighboring state Georgia at 4% each.

Top Florida Destinations

The top Florida destinations being searched on Cost2Drive are pretty much the ones you’d expect, with Orlando (and Walt Disney World) capturing the majority of traveler interest as 40% of all the Florida-bound routes had Orlando, Disney World or Kissimmee as the destination.

Top Florida Destinations for Snowbirds

The destination rankings break down as follows:

  1. Orlando/Kissimmee: 40%
  2. Miami/Fort Lauderdale: 16%
  3. Tampa/Saint Petersburg/Clearwater: 11%
  4. The Florida Panhandle (Pensacola/Panama City): 8%
  5. Northeast Coast (Jacksonville, Daytona Beach): 7%
  6. Naples/Fort Myers: 7%
  7. Cape Canaveral/Palm Bay: 4%
  8. Florida Keys/Key West: 3%
  9. Sarasota/Bradenton: 3%
  10. All Others: 1%

The Atlantic versus the Gulf Coast

It’s common knowledge that you can determine the destination of a Florida-bound snowbird by its departure location, with Northeastern snowbirds alighting on the rough Atlantic coast while the Midwestern snowbirds prefer the calmer shores of the Gulf of Mexico.  We decided to test this hypothesis to see if the trips entered on Cost2Drive followed this same pattern.

Migration Patterns of the Midwestern and Northeastern Snowbird

We were delighted to learn that our results validated the hypothesis as the Midwestern Snowbirds were more likely to choose a Gulf Coast destination whereas the Northeastern Snowbirds were more likely to choose the Atlantic Coast.  We were surprised, however, to discover that Midwestern Snowbirds were also more likely to choose a Gulf Coast destination over Orlando/Disney World whereas Northeastern Snowbirds prefer Orlando over Atlantic Coast destinations by a fairly wide margin.

What’s your favorite Florida destination?

Happy Driving!

(no snowbirds were harmed in the undertaking of this study)

Following Hemingway to Key West

The Overseas Railroad that carried Hemingway to Key West in 1934

Over the holidays I was reading a new book that explores the period in famed author Ernest Hemingway’s life  when he owned the fishing boat Pilar.  The first few chapters of Hemingway’s Boat are dedicated to his purchase of the boat upon his return to the US after a three-month African hunting safari and his subsequent trip to Key West, Florida where he would settle for the next several years.

Hemingway’s trip to Key West included traversing the Overseas Railroad, an engineering marvel that is celebrating its 100th anniversary later this month.  Although not a commercial success for developer Henry Flagler, the Overseas Railroad did provide the backbone for what would become one of the most exciting road trip destinations in the world; the Overseas Highway.

Stretching 127.5 miles from Homestead, FL to Key West, the Overseas Highway cuts a southwestern path through the Gulf of Mexico connecting the dots that make up the Florida Keys.  Most  of the highway is built over water making for a spectacular journey, unless there happens to be a hurricane (which caused the demise of the original railroad).

Hemmingways BoatAccording to Hemingway’s Boat, Hemingway’s journey originated in New York City on April 9th, 1934 and included a stopover in Philadelphia where he met with officials of the Academy of Natural Sciences who were interested in his knowledge of Gulf Stream fish, before terminating two days later at the southernmost point of the continental US.  Upon his arrival to Key West, also known as the Conch Republic, Hemingway was met by a marching band as his celebrity had already been established.

If you’re looking for a great southern escape this winter, you may want to follow Hemingway and head down to Key West for a tropical vacation that’s still within the borders of the US.  Although you can no longer take the train (the railroad was decommission after damage done by the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935) you can drive the entire distance and use Cost2Drive.com to help plan for the trip.  Another  option is to fly to Miami and rent a car as its  a three-hour drive  from Miami to Key West and well  worth the trip.  Below is in interactive map that plots out the route and highlights key stops along the way.

Happy Driving!

Dodge Caravan Is King of the Magic Kingdom

The Top Vehicle for Vacationers Driving to Disney Parks in 2011

As millions of people across the US and Canada begin planning their annual trek south for the winter many will have a Disney theme park as their final destination.  You can literally draw a line down the middle of North America to predict which parks these travelers will visit with the western half visiting Disneyland and Disney California Adventure Park in southern California and the eastern half visiting Disney World in Orlando, Florida.

North America divided by two realms of Disney

What’s harder to predict are the types of vehicles these travelers will be driving on their epic road trips to Disney, and so we thought this would be an interesting study to undertake given that Disney World is the most popular attraction entered on our flagship Website Cost2Drive.com, a site used by over 300,000 people in 2011 to help plan car trips.  Nearly 10,000 of these road trippers entered a Disney theme park as their destination providing us with an ample supply of routes from which to analyze.  Below are our findings.

The Top 10 Vehicles Driven to Disney Parks

We don’t know if anyone has ever conducted a study like this, but since users of Cost2Drive enter their vehicle information on the site we’re able to identify the most popular cars that people are driving to Disney World and Disneyland.   Not surprisingly, the top four vehicles are minivans which are ideally suited for the traveling family.

Based on 10,000 routes to Disney parks entered on Cost2Drive.com

What is surprising, however, is how different this list is from the top vehicles entered on Cost2Drive overall in 2011.  Well be sharing that list in a future post, but don’t expect minivans to populate the top positions.  It is interesting to note that SUV’s didn’t crack the top five, though a number did make it into the top 20 rankings.  The Dodge Caravan took the top slot, capturing 10.5% of all the trips to Disney World and Disneyland on Cost2Drive, followed closely by the Honda Odyssey.  Rankings of the all of the top 10 are as follows:

  1. Dodge Caravan (10.5%)
  2. Honda Odyssey  (9.6%)
  3. Chrysler Town & Country (6.3%)
  4. Toyota Sienna (6.0%)
  5. Toyota Camry (5.1%)
  6. Ford Explorer (5.0%)
  7. Honda Civic (4.9%)
  8. Honda Pilot (4.3%)
  9. Honda Accord (4.2%)
  10. Ford Expedition (4.2%)

Average Trip Distance by Vehicle

People are always amazed when we tell them that average distance of routes entered on Cost2Drive is over 800 miles each way, and that expands further for trips to the Disney theme parks where the average trip distance is over 1,000 miles.  The average trip length varies significantly by vehicle type with minivans and SUVs outpacing sedans in terms of trip length.

Average distance driven to Disney theme parks (one-way)

In this case its the Chrysler Town & Country that takes the crown with an average trip length of 1165 miles each way.  The overall average trip length was 1,065 miles with the top 10 rankings as follows:

  1. Chrysler Town & Country – 1,165 miles
  2. Dodge Caravan – 1,149 miles
  3. Toyota Sienna – 1,118 miles
  4. Honda Odyssey – 1,104 miles
  5. Ford Expedition – 1,027 miles
  6. Honda Civic – 1,008 miles
  7. Honda Pilot – 985 miles
  8. Ford Explorer – 969 miles
  9. Toyota Camry – 964 miles
  10. Honda Accord – 841 miles

Cost of Driving

Because gas prices are at record highs for this time of year one of the most important considerations for consumers is how much they will need to budget for gas to get to the Disney parks.   We entered a typical trip from Chicago to Disney World  into our trip cost calculator on Cost2Drive.com to compare the cost of driving the 2011 models of the four leading minivans (note that the Dodge Caravan is now the Grand Caravan):

Driving costs based on 2011 model year vehicles using EPA MPG estimates

In this scenario its the 2011 Honda Odyssey that ends up with the crown being the most fuel efficient of the four minivans, costing only $144 each way to drive from Chicago to Orlando.

If you’re planning a winter road trip check out the Cost2Drive trip calculator to help you plan the trip.  It will quickly calculate fuel costs based on real time gas prices along your route and help you save money by locating the cheapest gas at refueling points along the way.  It also displays the cheapest airfare so you can see if its cheaper to fly or drive to your destination.

If you have an iPhone you can download our new Cost2Drive iPhone app that gives you all the great features of the Website plus it lets you save and compare up to five vehicles in the app.  Download it today and never again wonder what it will cost to drive places.

Happy New Year and Happy & Safe Driving in 2012!

Cost2Drive iPhone App FREE For The Holidays!

Our Holiday Gift to You!  Save $1.99 Through Jan, 1, 2012.

In case you hadn’t noticed, gas prices in the US are now at an all time high heading into the week before Christmas as the price for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline has  remained stubbornly above $3.00.  In fact gas prices are a full 30 cents per gallon more than last year at this time which, combined with an unprecedented hike in toll fees, makes this Christmas travel season the most expensive on record.

Rather than curse the darkness we’re going to shine a light on what it will cost to drive places this holiday season by offering up our new Cost2Drive iPhone application for free for the remainder of the year.  Whether you’re planning a trip home to visit family and friends or planning that winter vacation to the Florida beaches or Colorado ski slopes the Cost2Drive iPhone app will help you budget for the trip by showing fuel costs and save you money by locating the cheapest gas at refueling points along the way.  The app also makes it a breeze to quickly compare the cost of driving different vehicles with a simple swipe of a finger and displays the cheapest airfare so you can see if its cheaper to fly or drive to your destination.

Quickly Compare the Cost of Driving Different Vehicles With the Swipe of a Finger

The Cost2Drive iPhone app contains fuel efficiency information on over 20,000 cars and light trucks in the US going back to the 1990 model year and lets you save up to 5 vehicles in the app.  It also provides the ability to enter your own custom vehicles making it useful for owners of RVs and motorcycles as well.

Manually Enter Custom Vehicles Like RVs and Motorcycles

So we’ve built alot of value into the iPhone app, but don’t take our word for it check out some of the great reviews the app has received, including this one from CNET TV.

Visit iTunes to download the new app today for FREE and let us know what you think.  If you don’t have an iPhone, you can use our Website application to begin planning your car trips for 2012.Apple iTunes App Store

We wish everyone a safe and joyous holiday and a happy and prosperous New Year.

Happy Driving!