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Question of the Week: How many errands have you ever combined into one trip?

2008 December 15

Each week we ask a question related to the environment. Please let us know your thoughts as comments. Feel free to respond to earlier comments or post new ideas. Previous questions.

Driving efficiently saves fuel and helps reduce air pollution and traffic congestion.  One tip for driving efficiently is to combine or chain trips so you complete many errands in one outing.

How many errands have you ever combined into one trip?

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66 Responses leave one →
  1. Linda permalink
    December 15, 2008

    Since I work about 20 miles from my home, I’ve commonly made it a practice to do errands on my way home from work; it’s rare when I don’t have at least one stop to make. I’ve never counted how many, but it’s not uncommon to make 2 or 3 stops before I make it home. More complicated tasks are saved for the weekends; I *always* have a list of items that need to be accomplished over the weekend; drop off recyclables, go to the building supply, vet, bookstore, specialty groceries, department store, etc. Sometimes we even manage to work in a movie or a social visit, but mostly if seems as if the chores never end. Any advice on how to eliminate some of these errands so I can reclaim some of my “time off”?

  2. Lina-EPA permalink
    December 15, 2008

    On weekends, when I’m doing errands, I can easily combine 3 or more errands at once since the bank, drug store, gas station, and grocery store are in relative close proximity. The movies and the shopping center are not far away. So, there are days that I can even have 5 trips in succession if I need to.

  3. psuklinkie permalink
    December 15, 2008

    Though my fiancee and I share one car, thus minimizing our overall gas-guzzling capacity, we still strive to make our trips as worthwhile as possible. Even such a simple activity as going to church Sunday morning delivers us to the farmers’ market and grocery store before we go home.
    Especially when I’m biking around to complete my errands, I make sure I’m combining trips — to save myself the trouble of heading out again. The library trip soon becomes a library-post office-bank-stationery store trip.

    @Linda: how about making your life easier by placing books on hold from the library instead of having the find them at the bookstore? Such a small change can make a world of difference with the 4-story, escalator-laden Barnes and Nobles I see everywhere.
    When you take your recyclables, make sure you have a boatload, instead of just a few — that way, you go less frequently. In terms of much shopping, you can do a great deal of it at home with “site to store” pick up, where you order and pay for items online, and they hold them at the customer service desk for you.
    How about even designating just one day to be “busy day” and saving other days to be “slow days”?

  4. Mandy permalink
    December 16, 2008

    I try to save my running around for early morning Saturdays. I usually make a list of the places I need to go and start from the furthest away, working my way back toward home. The shopping centers are not very far away, so the trip length is not very long. I can remember one particular Saturday where I went to the bank, picked up photos, got an oil change, went to 4 stores, picked up dry cleaning, then got groceries. I was very thankful to finally get home, but it also eliminated the need to do these things during the week.

  5. Jan permalink
    December 16, 2008

    I work about 15 miles away from home, and do most of my errands a few more miles away (we’re spread out in Texas!). I almost never do a single errand, but rely on lists to help me group my errands and save time. One big shopping trip a month (usually a weekday evening) stocks up on everything but perishables, and I get those once a week, on the way home from some other unavoidable errand. I try to keep my weekends free. My idea of a perfect weekend is pulling into the garage Friday evening and not leaving until Monday morning!

  6. Linda permalink
    December 16, 2008

    Good thoughts; thanks! :)

  7. Elmo permalink
    December 16, 2008

    1 million.

  8. Michele permalink
    December 16, 2008

    I agree with the comment by jan, “the perfect weekend is pulling into the garage Friday evening…” but I amend it by adding “and not taking the car out until Monday morning.” I am making an effort to teach my self public transportation, biking and walking…if I can’t get it done via one of these ways then maybe I don’t need to drive after all.

  9. Carolyn permalink
    December 16, 2008

    Combining errands into one trip does save on fuel as well as time but reducing the number of stores overall is even better. Often I weigh the costs of time, money and energy and buy things at one store even if they are a little more expensive. Big Box stores are a great way to find household items, food general home needs and even some fun stuff like clothes or a movie!

  10. LEO DEARMIN permalink
    December 16, 2008

    Leave home in am, stop to fuel up in town, pickup carpool rider, proceed to office, let off rider, go to local pharmacy for prescriptions of wife and daughter, pickup chicken for office pot-luck, return to office for work. Less than 30 miles and 1 hour’s time for the standard 20 mile trip to the office.

  11. Kenny permalink
    December 16, 2008

    I think I’ve combined about 2 or 3 errands. I live about 5 miles from work, but sometimes I have to drive into town. Once, I stopped to buy a fifth of bourbon on the way home from a meeting downtown. Everyone should be aware that you shouldn’t drive to buy liquor on Sunday, because most places can’t sell liquor on Sunday, so that would be a waste of gasoline.

  12. Andrea Javed permalink
    December 16, 2008

    I try to do as much errands as I can in one trip. I normally do this on weekdays so when weekend comes, I don’t have much errands to do and I can just focus on relaxing and spending time with family.

  13. mark permalink
    December 16, 2008

    We have a family with 5 children. We strive hard to combine trips as much as possible. Even though we live in a small community where distances between things may be less than a few miles, we are trying to set this sort of example for our kids. It is not uncommon for us to have to get kids to different activities that result in one or more having to ride along to make the trip as efficient as possible, setting up a route and explaining to everyone that we will do it this way to get everyone where they need to be and minimize our gas bill at the same time. Our typical trip probably averages 3-5 stops.

  14. Sally permalink
    December 16, 2008

    Rarely do I leave the house for one thing. I most generally stop on my way home from work for items. On weekends I try to only leave the house for church on Sunday, I will stop on the way if needed.

  15. Kim permalink
    December 16, 2008

    I work about 26 miles from my house and will stop on the way home if there is something I need. Typically, Saturday is errand day and we usually do 90% of our errands on that day. I try to plan them so I do the shortest route.

  16. c panagiotides permalink
    December 16, 2008

    The possibilities are endless. I create a “rat trail” of my destinations on the way home from work and off I go. Saves a lot of gas, carbon footprint, and time.

  17. Kurt permalink
    December 16, 2008

    I usally save all my running around for Saturday — 4 or 5 stops during the run would be normal. Sometimes we figure in a stop at a local diner for breakfest , it makes the chasing around a bit more enjoyable.

  18. Janet permalink
    December 16, 2008

    I live 94 miles from my job and 45 miles from the nearest city. I definitely combine trips. Usually I do my running on Saturday early – farm store, building supply store and groceries. I try not to do errands on work days as my commute is so long anyway and I have critters to tend to in the evening. But like Jan, my perfect weekend is to not get in the car at all!

  19. Terry permalink
    December 16, 2008

    I live 5 miles from town now, and was raised on a farm in southeast Arizona, I was 35 miles from town, and grew up with a strong sense of conserving everything from gas to food, as well as “wear and tear” on a vehicle. We would make 1 trip per month to get needed items. It didn’t surprise me at all to see the auto mfgs. get into financial trouble, with the price of gas skyrocketing, and them building “monster trucks”. We all would benefit tremendously with new technology, solar panels, and also using wind generators. Time invested in new battery/storage devices will pay off very well.

  20. Pat Green permalink
    December 16, 2008

    Through organization, I have been able to combine a dozen or more errands into one trip. I have a full-time job, and work from home, but travel to my job 50 miles away one day each week. All week long, I collect projects, jobs that are completed, and things for my job together in the car. That way, when it’s time to go into the office, I have to just pick up my brief case and planner, and reduce the chances of forgetting something to almost nil. I recycle at work, which means I also have all the newspapers and a huge bag of recyclable materials with me.

    I do the same thing with more local trips in my area. The kitchen table has become a collection spot for my things going here or there. You might find bills & envelopes to be mailed, clothes going to the cleaners and/or tailor, the grocery and other shopping lists, something I bought and now don’t like to be returned to a store, that kind of thing.

    Anyway, I think everyone can reduce trips with some forethought. Good Luck! Pat

  21. Ellen permalink
    December 16, 2008

    One memorable Saturday, some years ago, I had 13 stops! That did include home, and probably lunch, so you could say it wasn’t all one trip — but it was close enough for folk music. I was a single parent living 20 miles outside of DC and working in Georgetown, so weekday evenings weren’t good for much. My guess as to the 13 is: daughter to dance class, Marshall’s, Trader Joe’s, pick up daughter, library, daughter home, gas, dry cleaner’s, bakery, Chinese market, home and lunch, Goodwill, supermarket for the week’s groceries. Then home and collapse! And yes, planning ahead and making lists is absolutely essential — my stops were in three loops, roughly east, west, and south, and all within about a three-mile radius of my house. 15+ years later (and in a different city with a far shorter commute but more distant stores), I try to keep my Saturday stops to 5 or 6, and do the rest on the way to/from work — or just postpone them for another week.

  22. Tom permalink
    December 16, 2008

    I think this question is poorly written because I think most of this type of planning depends greatly on the distances involved. I have lived in Texas (rural and metropolitan); Tempe, Arizona; Los Angeles, Boston and Richmond, Virginia.

    The answer could be very different for each.

    At present I work <1 mile from home, my wife works about 10 miles from home. Most of our shopping is done on her way home from work on a selected day of the week. She calls to ask if I need anything before she starts her multi-stop trips home.

    We consider weekend time very precious with well planned shopping trips shared with several of her friends. I often make short trips of a couple of miles to obtain small items for repair and maintenance on the weekend although I try to plan ahead and do it while I am in the area on a lunch trip during the week.

    Our biggest mileage expenditure comes from our community work as Scout leaders and leader trainers. We keep very detailed records of this mileage for income tax purposes. It is indeed a sobering experience to look at mileage in this manner and we constantly strive to reduce this.

  23. Utah Chris permalink
    December 16, 2008

    I’ve combined the twelve days of Christmas into 36 errands in one trip for my wife and two kids. All completed in about a 12 hour day, wrapped and placed near the tree.

  24. Anonymous permalink
    December 16, 2008

    A better question to ask is why hasn’t our government spent the time and money to insure that every traffic light is sensitive to the current traffic patterns and respond to cars waiting at a light while no other traffic is in the intersection. Everytime you see a red light operating without properly programmed sensing technology, you are witnessing waste of time, money and natural resources.

  25. Anonymous permalink
    December 16, 2008

    It’s Santa Claus!

  26. Melanie permalink
    December 16, 2008

    Maybe we should be looking at ways to have fewer errands. For example, if you have a mailbox at your home there is no need to go to the post office. Almost all grocery stores sell postage stamps (at least where I am from) so you can purchase those during your regular trip to the grocery then you can simply place your outgoing mail in the box at home for the carrier to pick up. One less trip to make.

    As another poster mentioned…there may be a few items on sale at one store while another few are on sale at another store but is it really an efficient use of time and resources to drive to multiple locations – using gas, time, and energy – to save a few cents. Pick the location with the most “deals” and adjust your list accordingly.

    Manage your time wisely. If you have an hour for lunch or time when a child is at some practice and you are in close proximity to some of your “stops”, do your errands then. And chose to shop at stores that allow you to consolidate several things. You might be surprised at some of the deals that you can find in unusual or unexpected places. My pharmacy, for example, has become my “go to” place for photo developing, prescriptions, gifts and gift cards, and baby supplies.

    It just takes some planning and forethought.

  27. Bonnie Aylor permalink
    December 16, 2008

    LOL! I’d say about ten. However, this is a strategy I use all of the time. For environmental reasons as well as practical reasons; I hate to drive, I’m more athletic and can’t stand errands. SOOOO, when I know I am going to have to run errands, I choose something that I have to do that allows me to travel the furthest, then I estimate the time I have to take that trip and plan the rest of the errands around that trip, stopping and going along the way. I plan for one side of the road there and the other side back, that way I don’t have to make u-turns or take left turns.

  28. Donna permalink
    December 16, 2008

    I live about 15 miles from town and almost never go into town more than twice a week. When I do go, I usually make about 8 or 9 stops. I have a bag of clothes that were given to my children 5 months ago, which need to be returned and I am waiting to go near the mall where the store is..(30 miles). I often make my Dr/dentist appts on days when I know I will have the time to stop in a do some shopping. On days when my daughter has dance class, I try to get around and do as many errands as I can while she is dancing.

  29. mari permalink
    December 16, 2008

    I haven’t counted how many errands I combined in one trip… but I DO combine. If I have to be out anyway (like work), I try to get in an errand like groceries, or the bank. When at work, I ask myself– do I REALLY need to go out at lunch? I’ve avoided a lot of unnecessary driving this way. I also try and shop at places that are in the line of travel between home & work. It isn’t “how many” but efficient organization of the trips.

  30. Dot permalink
    December 16, 2008

    I always try to avoid extra trips – before I leave the house I try to map out a circle for my errands so it is not necessary to back track at any point.
    It works. Less road time.
    Also on my way home from work I make any necessary stops between my job ( 12 miles from home) and home in order not to have to go back out once I am home.

  31. Krishnamurthy S. Gadi permalink
    December 16, 2008

    I normally do 2 to 4 on one trip. Anything I miss I will program for other errands I might have to do it at a later date. Also, I am known for keeping extra items of the same kind that way I avoid too many trips. Most of the time I will do my errands while returning home from work.

  32. John permalink
    December 16, 2008

    We live about 16 miles from town, and combine all of our errands in the trip to town each day, like many do. This includes drop-offs at school, pick up at swimming, shopping, after-school events, shop at the store for whatever we need, bookstore, coffee drive-through, and getting gas. Rarely, and I mean rarely do we ever go to town and do one thing. On weekend, we plan everything we need to do prior to going to town, including taking the trash, major shopping, errands, exercise or whatever outdoor thing we are going to do. Oh no – I just ran down the block to hit the Post Office when I thought it was not busy…sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do!

  33. Terri permalink
    December 16, 2008

    Without realizing the environmental benefits, I’ve used this method as far back as I can remember. I plan all my errands so that I make one big circle. This is an actual day in my life: get oil changed, get tire changed, register for Spring semester, arrange to take an exam erarly so I can pick my daughter up from school and be done with my day. I am so adamant about doing things this way that if someone calls me on my cell phone and adds a stop that alters my “perfectly planned” trip, it annoys me. I have all my favorite restaurants programmed into my cell phone so I can order my food while running one last errand.

  34. Aunt Tanny permalink
    December 16, 2008

    All my errands are done at one time. I make a routing circle that starts and ends at the road heading home. My trip is usually a Sunday, everything is open and I go to church so I am out and about anyway. Getting gas is the last thing I do. Walmart usually has a price lowering habit on the weekends for gas and it is the last stop on my circle. I may go once every two weeks to run my errands, otherwise it is just church and gas and an emergency trip or two –blown tire, etc. Only planed time I went two times in the same week was on Black Friday. Got all my Christmas presents in one small straight line route. Started at 9AM and finished at 1PM for the door busters. I was lucky. My circle route is about 12 miles and my straight line route is usually about 20. The mall is farther away from my normal routes. As you can tell I don’t have any children and all my family are close to each other, so that is a short trip that varies depending on family gatherings. I always like to make my routes the shortest and best organized that I can. I hate back-tracking because I forgot something.

  35. Pam in Oregon permalink
    December 16, 2008

    I live 12 miles from town & try to drive into town no more than 2X a week. I am a substitute teacher, so sometimes it is more driving. I have been combining trips for years. I drive a 1995 Geo that gets about 40 mpg. It is more a truck than car. I list everything I have to do and then number the stops according to distance from home and the traffic patterns (lights, no left-hand turns, etc). Have had to add a place to drop mail since our rural route box is frequently raided. Typical weekday errands include recycling, mail-drop box, library to pick up holds or drop books, meetings or appointments, credit union, in summer farmer’s market on Wednesdays. Regardless of whether we go to church on Saturday evening or Sunday morning, the next stop is always groceries where we can also drop mail. I try to do as many as possible errands in one day and stay away from weekends since those who work are usually out in force. We just stay out of their way, same for noon appointments – leave those for the working folk! I have done as many as 13 and all around 30 miles with good planning. I pile up errands; there have been times when I have not had to drive for 6 or 7 days. Those are golden!

    I’d love to ride the bus but it doesn’t come out here. If it did, I’d ride my bike into the place where I could pick up the bus.

  36. Lee Richardson permalink
    December 16, 2008

    It makes more sense to limit driving than the price of gas. The full cost including depreciation of the vehicle far exceeds 50 cents per mile even on an old vehicle. It is hard to justify runs that save $1 at the cash register for a single item at a second store when it is also available somewhere else you are going. If the stores are very close or on the same path you are driving anyway, save a $1

    Here are some grocery tactics

    I have six different grocery stores within 5 miles of home. If I have a prescription, I go to the one of the stores that has a pharmacy where i am registered and can order the item from the doctor or refill in advance. I get other grocery things at the same place.
    Exceptions need to be made for $75 in grocery purchases only if you know what you would save over gas/driving costs at a second store. I do the other grocery stores periodically for their specialties and special prices.

    Any grocery visit gives you a luck of the draw possibility of something on clearance you could use. You do not want to comb two stores that way in a day anyhow

    Do not forget the value of your time too.

  37. L. Sue permalink
    December 16, 2008

    I combine trips all the time. I am very conscious every time I start the car as to where I’m going and what else I can do at the time. Fortunately., most of the places I go are within 1/2 mile of my place, except work and I take the train to work.

  38. L. Sue permalink
    December 16, 2008

    That’s a very good point. There should be more four-way stops. When the lights are out for some reason, traffice does not build up.

  39. Rhea Courtney Bozic permalink
    December 16, 2008

    I always combine trips, usually at least 3- bank, post office, grocery store. Then the fascinating additions of Staples, UPS, and the mall.

  40. cooler choice permalink
    December 16, 2008

    walking to most of my errands but when i need the car i always plan it so i can get the most done at one time

  41. Herb permalink
    December 16, 2008

    I’ll make as many as I want because Global Warming is a scam by the government and leftwing whackos who follow after every scent of methane they can get their nose on. You want to do a way with pollution, get rid of the water vapor that traps it so it won’t dissipate into the air.

  42. Carol permalink
    December 16, 2008

    Since I telecommute, I actually think much more before I drive. The most errands I’ve combined in one trip actually is probably during my lunch walks. I pickup lunch, go to bank, pharmacy, coffee shop, gift store and swing by to walk my son home from school. It doesn’t hurt that I live in California which allows me to do this kind of low-impact route nearly all year long.

  43. Jan permalink
    December 17, 2008

    Gosh, I’ve done this for years. I work out of my home now and only drive a couple of days a week only when I need to.
    Saving time and money has always been part of my thinking even before the environmental thing.
    I live by moderation with everything and have always lived by a saying. “When in doubt .. don’t” it’s proven to be effective with everything and every situation in life.
    A few months back when gas was so bad I invested in an electric moped. Turns out it was the best investment I made so far. No gas, an enjoyable ride and much like a bicycle, enjoying nature as it was intended.

  44. sam7 permalink
    December 17, 2008

    i live in a country that fuel or any energy not problem on it .but i don’t have a car i prefer walk or bicycle for short distance Nearly 3km . and for medium or long trip Hybrid or fuel motorcycle . i often think about healthy in activity when i spend energy , because energy never lose Rather change from STATUS to STATUS , it’s very important we learn how take energy from inverse energy , like [ N ](STAPLE power on SURFACE) in [ mg ] , therewith we never solicitous about energy.
    it’ very safely .
    now, how much TIME do we have?

  45. Mike permalink
    December 17, 2008

    I can combine as up to 8 errands on my day off, which is every other Friday. I work 40 miles from my house, I also live in the country, 5 miles from town.

    I drive a public van pool vehicle with 10 riders to work. We meet at a shopping area and drive from there. I generally stop on the way home from work and minimize my trips back into town.

    It doesn’t matter how cheap gas is, we should always take advantage of our trips to maximize efficiency and minimize our fuel consumption. It does not matter how new your automobile is, or how much gas milage you get, reducing unnecessary trips can have a huge impact on the environment and release us from the strangle hold of foreign oil.

    I also own a boat and definitely am concerned about fuel efficiency and comsumption. As an environmental engineer, I understand most of the problems associated with fossile fuels.

    Keep truckin’ , but do it wisely.

  46. Tucson permalink
    December 17, 2008

    I like the Cheaper by the Dozen (the book) lifestyle. Super simple efficiency bordering crazy obsessive and elaborate means of achieving this efficiency. I try to think of everything I might need to get or use while out for the day and I end up looking for like a backpacker than a commuter. That way I don’t waste time going back home for things. It is *time* that I like to save as much as it is gas or energy. Takes a lot of planning and skimping on less important needs when you don’t plan just right, so that you don’t have to make extra trips. But when it comes to having a day off, I like to ride my bike for errands, and then energy is the factor over time.

    Depending on if I am commuting by bike, bus, or car, I have gotten to know different stores that fit those routes I would take, which has been a fun process.

  47. Frog permalink
    December 17, 2008

    I wonder how many of the errands are done at drive-up windows. I know a fellow who leaves work, sits in line at the drive-up window at his bank then at his pharmacy. He then goes to his fitness center then sits in line at a fast food place to take home his families’ dinner. Should drive-up windows be allowed?

  48. Melanie permalink
    December 17, 2008

    Trust me…drive-up windows definately serve a purpose. When you have to drag a 3 month old and a 6 year old out of the car and into the pharmacy just to drop off or pick up a prescription a drive-thru window is a blessing.

  49. Ira Grossman permalink
    December 17, 2008

    We live in an urban area

  50. Terri permalink
    December 18, 2008

    I frequently round-up 2 or 3 stops per trip – especially going home from work.

    I don’t mind being in the car for a long time so that helps. I’ve actually chosen to forgo an errand when it wasn’t on the way to wherever was going but would be on the way to a different trip the next day.

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