- While travel demand is still high, an AAA study found travelers are adjusting their vacation plans to compensate for rising gas prices.
- Paula Twidale of AAA suggested making bookings as soon as possible; this is not the time to wait for prices to go down.
- She also suggested a staycation that will put fewer miles on their car.
Chantel Claywell of Richmond, Indiana, favors “unique” destinations and found the perfect spot last year: Tybee Island, Georgia.
Her four kids loved everything about it – the beach, the local ice cream and toy shops – and asked to go back this May once the school year wraps up.
“You can make memories without spending an arm and a leg to get on rides,” Claywell said. “It’s very quiet and peaceful. The sand is beautiful, the ocean is beautiful. It’s just very friendly when it comes to family.”
Claywell got as far as booking hotel rooms on Tybee Island before she had to pull the plug on the trip.
“Gas prices skyrocketed,” she explained. As of Friday, the average cost of a gallon of regular gas in Tennessee was $4.03, according to AAA.
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Claywell did the math: the 24-hour round trip to Tybee Island and back in the family’s Dodge Grand Caravan would cost them nearly $300 with gas prices at $4.25.
To cut costs, the Claywells are considering switching to a road trip to Santa Claus, Indiana, which is less than four hours away.
“My kids are super upset,” she said. “We haven’t told them where we might go instead, just in case gas is like $5.30 by the end of May. You never know. We don’t want to keep breaking hearts.”
Claywell isn’t alone. While travel demand is still high, a recent study from AAA found travelers are adjusting their vacation plans to compensate for rising gas prices.
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High gas prices are making travelers adjust their plans
A survey of more than 1,000 U.S.-based travelers conducted by AAA last month found 52% of plan to take a vacation this summer. Of those travelers, over half (58%) said they would consider changing their plans if gas prices got “high enough.”
Some travelers, like Amie Jones of Sparta, Tennessee, are pushing back the family vacation.
Jones and her family were planning to take their camper to Gatlinburg, Tennessee – a three-hour drive – while two of her kids were on spring break. Once gas prices spiked, though, they decided to travel somewhere closer to home this summer to cut costs.
“My husband, he drives to Lebanon in Tennessee (for work), which is about an hour drive. We’re already forking out a little bit more on gas, so we decided we’ll just do a staycation,” Jones said. “With the camper, we only get maybe 10 miles a gallon. We were just afraid what we budgeted for was going to go mostly to gas.”
Paula Twidale, senior vice president of travel for AAA, said while travelers may be adjusting their plans due to gas prices, it isn’t deterring travel.
“There’s a little bit of a chameleon aspect going on,” Twidale said. “Some things may be changing, but not necessarily canceling.”
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Summer travel demand still high, despite gas prices
Twidale noted that 2022 bookings within warm-weather destinations like Hawaii, Florida and Mexico are actually surpassing 2019 levels, according to AAA data.
Other travel companies are also seeing a surge in 2022 bookings.
A March 10 statement from vacation rental site Vrbo said demand for Vrbo properties this summer is already outpacing last summer by nearly 15%. Airlines are also seeing spring and summer bookings surpass 2019 levels.
Twidale credited pent-up demand after the 2020 shutdowns and the additional discretionary income many Americans have in their pockets.
“(Travel) will be more costly,” Twidale said. “Is it enough to make people change their mind about actually taking time off enjoying the vacation? I don’t think so.”
Instead of outright canceling vacation plans, Twidale expects to see travelers alter their plans to save costs.
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For travelers looking to save costs on their 2022 vacation, Twidale suggests:
► Changing travel dates to avoid peak room rates or flight prices;
► Taking advantage of travel rewards and points;
► Finding destinations that don’t require rental cars or driving; or
► Considering a staycation that will put fewer miles on their car.
Twidale also suggested making plans and bookings including airline ticket purchases as soon as possible; this is not the time to wait for prices to go down.
“It’s all in the planning,” she said. “I would say book early.”
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