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August 2009

August 31, 2009

Road Trip Rules: Have a Flawless Labor Day Vacation

Carmap Despite expensive fuel and economic uncertainty, millions of Americans will be hitting the road over the Labor Day holiday.  The National Motorists Association has developed a list of recommendations intended to keep a vacation trip a vacation and not a family disaster story.

1) Take An Extra Key
: Not many experiences are more frustrating than to be 300 hundred miles from home and to lock yourself out of your car. New automobiles can be a real challenge to enter, even by pros, when they are locked. Placing or hiding a key somewhere on the exterior of the vehicle will turn a potential nightmare into a minor inconvenience.

2) Your GPS Isn’t Infallible - Buy And Carry A Good Road Map
: That new GPS may be addictive, but they are not foolproof in every situation.  For example, a bad accident stalls traffic for hours on a major highway and has you stranded in unfamiliar country.  A good map may provide a feasible escape route, and will often provide an alternative to an official detour route that is much faster if you are in a standard passenger vehicle (official detour routes have to accommodate large trucks and busses).

3) Check Your Belts And Hoses
: Modern automobiles are remarkably reliable - they will absorb a lot of neglect and abuse and still get you to your destination. The weakest links in the reliability chain are coolant hoses and the belts that convey power to alternators, water pumps, and other components external to the engine. These too have improved dramatically but they should be checked over periodically.

4) Alternate Drivers If Necessary: Traffic accidents common to vacation travel can often be traced to fatigue and being in unfamiliar travel environments. Stay fresh, trade off driving, take breaks and get some circulation going. If you’re fresh and alert unexpected events or situations will be less likely to cause confusion or dangerous reactions.

5) Be Smart About The Traffic Laws:
Traffic laws and traffic signage are supposed to be uniform, but they aren’t. It pays to be careful though because, according to the National Speedtrap Exchange, there are over 50,000 speed traps in the United States. If you are ticketed, don’t fight your battle on the roadside. If you truly feel exploited, you can challenge your ticket in court by yourself, with help from the National Motorists Association, or through an attorney. Just don’t let it spoil your vacation!

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August 28, 2009

2010 Chrysler Cars With Highest Safety Rating Possible

Sebring According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the 2010 Chrysler Sebring and 2010 Dodge Avenger are the absolute safest cars out there. They have earned the 2009 Top Safety Pick rating, which is the highest possible rating.


Avenger When it comes to safety and security, the 2010 Chrysler Sebring and 2010 Dodge Avenger employ a two-fold approach: passive features, including pre-tensioning seat belt retractors and supplemental side-curtain air bags, are combined with accident-avoidance features, including responsive steering, braking, handling and Electronic Stability Control (ESC).


"A vehicle that earns the Top Safety Pick designation provides the best overall protection in the three most common kinds of crashes,” said Adrian Lund, President – Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.  The 2010 Chrysler Sebring and 2010 Dodge Avenger offer more than 30 safety and security features, which help meet the tough criteria needed to win this award.


For more auto safety tips from RTM, click here.


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August 27, 2009

Your Car Kit: Always Have These Things While Driving

No matter how much you think ahead and perform routine preventative maintenance on your car, some breakdowns are unavoidable. Here's what you should always have with you just in case, according to CBS News:

  • Screwdrivers and wrenches of various sizes
  • Jumper cables
  • Gloves
  • A jack and tire iron
  • Water for both the radiator and yourself
  • Emergency flares and reflectors
  • Blanket and towel
  • Flashlight
  • A can of "Fix-A-Flat " for temporarily sealing a flat tire

An even easier, more convenient option is to buy one of AAA's Pre-Made Roadside Assistance Kits.

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August 26, 2009

Do the Private Island Math: Little Whale Cay

Little Whale Cay 044 Most people don't think about renting an entire island for that special occasion. It would be too expensive, out of the question. Well…not true. If a group of 10 to 12 rented the entire island of Little Whale Cay in the Bahamas, having it all to themselves for 5 nights, it's less expensive than you would think. Let's do the math.

What do you get? Little Whale Cay, a private island paradise set in the heart of the Berry Islands in the Bahamas, replete with accommodations, a superb main beach stretching endlessly, a marina with a flotilla of boats for sailing, cruising, fishing, water-skiing, off-island excursions, spa and gym facilities, sea-view infinity edged pool, tennis court, and even a chapel. Plus, a top notch chef and dedicated staff, whose job is to watch over the guests.

It accommodates up to 12 guests in 3 individual, elegant villas, privately set on 93 acres, skirted by white, unspoiled, sandy beaches. Villas are all air-conditioned, with flat screen TVs, DVD players, WiFi and telephones; Little Whale House, the main house and usually the popular gathering place, is equipped with a bar and satellite fed flat screen TV, 2 en-suite bedrooms, one double bedded and 1 king master suite, study with computer, spacious living room, dining room and terrace. Flamingo House has 4 bedrooms, 2 en-suite queen bedded rooms, one twin and 1 queen that share a bath, living room and terrace, and Peacock House with a king en-suite master bedroom, living room and terrace. Houses are connected by pathways but sheltered for privacy.

At first glance, the price of $9,500 per day for up to 12 with a minimum of 5 nights seems pretty scary. But, that is $3750 per person for a five night vacation on a private island including accommodations, food, drinks (including spirits and house wines), and the use of all island facilities, boats, fuel, telephone calls and WiFi Internet connection in each guest house. Now, if the group should book a hotel for 12 people for 5 nights, they would get rooms, not an island, for maybe $2,000 per person (at $400 per night) not including food, certainly not spirits, or sports, or boating.

Little Whale is truly a discovery for friends and families. There are few resorts, never mind private islands that offer luxury and privacy for such a price. It’s not the most practical destination, but it’s a lot more practical than you’d think.

(Source: Morano PR)

For more luxurious vacations, visit RTM's Luxury Travel Section.

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August 25, 2009

Efficiency Dilemma: Air-Conditioning or Windows Down?

Drivingac Fall's coming - meaning temperature fluctuations and cooler temperatures in general. This period of change revives a common question: when should drivers use air-conditioning in their cars as opposed to rolling down the windows to use fuel the most efficiently?

Well, according to the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), driving with the windows up and the air conditioning on is typically a more fuel-efficient way to drive.  Driving with the windows down decreases fuel efficiency by twice as much as driving with the air on. But this is only true while driving at speeds over 55 mph, and there are times when it isn't the case.

While driving at slower speeds it is always better to roll down the windows and switch off the A/C. Because there is less aerodynamic drag at slower speeds, the extra force added by having the windows down isn't as extreme. When speeds increase, drag increases exponentially, which uses more power and therefore more gas.

Another way to solve the air conditioning/windows down dilemma is to just forget about both except for in short spurts. periodically lower the windows to circulate air, or blast the air once in awhile.

For more fuel-efficiency tips from RTM, visit our Planet Driven section.

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August 24, 2009

Surf's up, Leashes Off! Top Five Dog-Friendly Beaches

Dog on beach When beach-goers can bring pets along, that day at the beach becomes that much more playful. "We know that a day at the beach is even better when you can bring your four-legged companion, so we looked far and wide to identify America's friendliest dog beaches," said Joshua Fried, Director of  Each of these playful waterfronts was selected for its outstanding features and promise of fun for dogs and their owners alike:


1. Cape San Blas (Port St. Joe, Florida) wins with its year-round leash-free policies and plethora of dog-friendly activities. A sailing program welcomes dogs aboard and the many pet-friendly restaurants nearby are sure to please patrons of both the 2 and 4-legged variety.


2. Quiet Waters Park (Annapolis, Maryland) reserves a fenced-off area as a special beach just for your pooch. Moreover, the beach sponsors the annual "Howl-O-Ween Barkin Bash" costume parade for dogs and their owners.


3. Block Island (Rhode Island) is a small dog-friendly island open year-round.  The beach has a relaxed leash policy, and bans all motor vehicles, making it a safe haven for your furry friend to roam around.


4. Cannon Beach (Cannon Beach, Oregon) is a four mile stretch of beach along the Pacific conveniently located near a town filled with dog-friendly hotels, restaurants and shops. Dogs must stay on-leash, but the view is worth it.


5. Fort De Soto Park (St. Petersburg, Florida) has the unique "Paw Playground," consisting of fenced-in areas for both big and small dogs. The park provides dog showers, a dog beach and fresh drinking water.




Visit RTM's Pet Travel Section for more pet-friendly tips like this.



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August 21, 2009

Americans Still Love Big & Luxurious Cars the Most

Lexus rx According to the 2009 Motorist Choice Awards, the best-scored cars by consumers for value and owner satisfaction are bigger, more luxurious cars. Cars like these, despite the economy and fuel consumption rates, make people feel proud of what they're driving, which is the leading reason people buy new cars today. The 2009 Motorist Choice Awards, co-developed by AutoPacific and, recognize new cars and trucks that give their owners both economic and emotional satisfaction, helping new-car buyers find vehicles that best satisfy all of their personal-transportation needs.

The top 34 cars were large cars, luxury cars, sport utility vehicles, crossover SUVs or minivans, with the Lexus LS taking 1st place overall, and the Chevrolet Tahoe taking the gold for the best SUV. "This affinity for big vehicles makes the American market unique compared to the rest of the world," said George Peterson, president of AutoPacific, which is known for it's owner satisfaction ratings. Only two small cars even made rank in the top 107 cars.

Leading manufacturers were Toyota and GM, though most manufacturers took at least one award. “Every car winning a Motorist Choice Award is a defendable purchase, and their owners will be pleased, both financially and behind the wheel," said James Bell, publisher and editor of, which determined value ratings for winning vehicles.

For more car buying advice, visit RTM's New Car Reviews Section.

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August 20, 2009

Urban Beach Vacations

Citybeach A few weeks ago, we introduced some urban get-away spots that have it all: beautiful, relaxing beaches alongside edgy shopping and a virbant nightlife. Here's five more cityscape-lined beaches to explore:

New York, USA:
Despite being one of the biggest, most densely populated cities on earth, New York has several beaches where New Yorkers can escape from city life and get their sand fix. Coney Island in Brooklyn is a favorite getaway, with Brighton Beach and Manhattan Beach popular places to soak up some rays.

Berlin, Germany: Despite being a landlocked city miles from the coast, Berlin boasts several urban beaches. Strandbar Mitte, one of the less touristy, is located right on the river Spree and is where Berliners come to relax on stripy deckchairs, enjoy mojitos on sand shipped in to create an artificial beach right on the river bank and watch the boats float by.

Tel Aviv, Israel: The Israeli capital boasts several beaches within its limits; Gordon-Frishman beach is about as central as you can get in Tel Aviv, and the Gordon salt water pool attracts many people who come for an early morning workout. The beach is wide and sandy and is one of the hippest places to be in Tel Aviv, with beach bars, DJs, volleyball courts and Tel Aviv’s trendy crowd coming to enjoy the Mediterranean shore.  A great place to catch a tan and people watch.

Sydney, Australia: Surely one of the most famous city beaches, Sydney’s Bondi is a well known surf spot and modern coastal resort. Dozens of cafes, bars and restaurants look out over the beach, which is backed by attractive parkland and is popular with rollerbladers, skaters and cyclists. Quickly reached from downtown Sydney using local buses, Bondi is Australia’s most iconic beach.

Los Angeles, USA: The beaches of Los Angles are famed around the world thanks to the Baywatch adventures of bikini clad Pamela Anderson. There are 20 plus beaches to choose from; Manhattan beach (not to be confused with the beach in New York by the same name) has great views of Santa Monica bay and is a favourite with walkers; pocket size El Matador beach is a quieter, romantic spot ideal for couples, and Redondo is the perfect family beach with a long paved path for the kids to bike, skate and run free.

For more vacation ideas visit RTM's Destination Reviews Section.

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August 19, 2009

What Not to Eat While Driving

Cops We've always thought it was dangerous to eat anything while driving - in fact, it's dangerous to do almost anything besides drive while you're driving - but apparently, these 10 foods are the most dangerous to eat while driving, as rated by the NHTSA.

1. Coffee (because it's hot)

2. Hot soup (again with the hot)

3. Tacos (any food that can disassemble itself will leave your car looking like a salad bar)

4. Chili dogs (potential for drips down the front of clothing)

5. Hamburgers (grease could make it's way onto the steering wheel)

6. Ribs and wings (what's more distracting than licking your fingers?)

7. Fried chicken (more greasy hands)

8. Jelly donuts (the center oozes out)

9. Soda (carbonation)

10. Chocolate (it melts)

I wonder which are the least dangerous to eat? Carrots, because they can't disassemble themselves? I think the busiest of the busy can stop for five minutes to eat in peace. If not, try to find something unmeltable, non-greasy, not filled with anything, cold (but not too cold), and uncarbonated to eat or drink while you're driving. Might I add that cops are screwed?

For more driving advice, visit RTM's Automotive Advice & Tips Section.

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August 17, 2009

2009 BMW 335i xDrive: Leaving Wishful Wannabes Wanting One of Their Own

Bmw xdrive Let’s face it, looking good turns heads no matter who or what it is, so when driving a hot 2009 BMW 335i xDrive, heads not only turn, they nearly spin off their spinal axis for full front and rear consumption of its visual splendor. This week’s test car is a head turner indeed especially here in Michigan where gray, white and beige cars are ubiquitous, blending into the often overcast innocuous skies. The cool Montego blue metallic stands out in any crowd of cars or creatures, popping like a perfect summer’s day, compelling smiles and winks as its breathtaking beauty struts on by, leaving lesser cars in total anonymity.

The Germans know how to put out… a great car that is; offering so many bells and whistles that it makes my own head spin. Power this, power that, power down, power up the wazoo, making its total fully loaded package of $45K well worth the buy to those who are power hungry and hold bodacious beauty in high esteem.


The BMW 335i is an image maker for sure, distributing good vibrations to all those in visual range; soaking up every eyeball in sight. Absorbing its graceful curves in radiant blue dress, those green with envy croon with come-hither chants assuming its driver is a rich young babe in control of the wheel. Upon further inspection however they discover instead it’s a seasoned senior citizen cruising through its 6-speed gearbox, leaving looky-loos scratching their bewildered heads. Let them wonder, asking why me and not them, leaving wishful wannabes wanting one of their own. After all, who wouldn’t want to be prancing and profiling in one of BMW’s ultimate driving machines? Silly question, indeed!

By Courtney Caldwell, Editor-in-Chief


Learn more about the 2009 BMW 335i xDrive here. 


To see more from BMW, visit RTM's 2009 BMW Vehicle Model Guide.



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