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The great holiday debate: to fly or to drive?

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Updated: 1/16 11:18 am

(BPT) - As many Americans get ready for holiday travel, one of the biggest decisions beyond the destination is deciding how to get there: to fly or drive. Factors like fuel or flight prices, dependability of the family vehicle, room for gifts and luggage as well as distance, inevitably come into play.

Thanks to a recent drive by Wayne Gerdes, a multiple world record-holder for fuel efficiency, the decision may be solved for many that like to hit the road.

Though faced with inclement weather and unpredictable traffic patterns similar to what is experienced around the holidays, Gerdes overcame the obstacles and drove an SUV from Chicago, Ill. to Austin, Texas - more than 1,100 miles - on a single tank of fuel from Shell. Gerdes made the drive to raise awareness for the importance of fuel-efficient driving.

He travelled for just under 20 hours and achieved an average fuel economy of 44.4 mpg, making his SUV's mileage comparable to that of some hybrids. He arrived at his destination in Austin with one-half gallon to spare.

'It's not difficult to improve your fuel efficiency and it can have a big impact,' says Gerdes, 'All it takes is a little planning ahead and using responsible driving habits. Especially at this time of year, I think we could all benefit from maximizing our fuel purchases.'

Want to achieve better mileage for your holiday travels - whether shopping around town or visiting family and friends across the country? Here are 10 smarter driving tips brought to you by Shell so you can follow in Gerdes' footsteps and make the most of your fuel purchases:

* Keep your engine well-tuned and repair any problems immediately. Fixing a serious maintenance problem, such as a faulty oxygen sensor, can improve your mileage by as much as 4 percent. (fueleconomy.gov)

* Make sure tires are not over or under-inflated. Proper air pressure cuts down on fuel used while driving. Keeping tires at the correct pressure can improve your gasoline mileage by up to 3 percent. (fueleconomy.gov)

* Minimize vehicle drag. An extra 100 pounds in your vehicle could reduce your gasoline mileage by up to 2 percent. (fueleconomy.gov)

* Drive smoothly. Speeding, rapid acceleration and braking can lower your gasoline mileage by 5 percent at lower speeds around town and by 33 percent at highway speeds. (fueleconomy.gov)

* Use cruise control on major roads and in free flowing traffic. Maintaining a constant speed can improve gasoline mileage. Just be careful not to use cruise control on wet roads or when it's raining due to hydroplaning potential. (fueleconomy.gov)

* Avoid idling. When you idle, you get zero miles per gallon. (fueleconomy.gov)

* Avoid higher speeds. Gasoline mileage usually decreases by a significant amount for every five miles per hour over the speed limit. (fueleconomy.gov)

* Plan your outings to avoid separate trips. This helps avoid unnecessary cold starts and keeps your car's engine running warm and more efficiently. Drive to the furthest errand location first as it keeps your car's engine warmer for a longer portion of your trip coming back which can help improve fuel economy.

* Choose a high-quality fuel. Lower quality fuels can leave harmful carbon deposits or 'gunk,' which can build up on intake valves and fuel injectors. This build-up can negatively impact engine performance, vehicle responsiveness and reduce fuel flow, which can lead to reduced fuel economy. High-quality fuels, like Shell Nitrogen Enriched Gasolines, clean and protect intake values and fuel injectors from performance-robbing gunk.

* Use the recommended grade of oil in your engine. Following your manufacturer's recommended motor oil grade in a high quality synthetic blend can improve gasoline mileage by up to 2 percent. (fueleconomy.gov)

So no matter what you drive this holiday season, choose to drive smart.

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