More than 41.5 million Americans plan to travel more than 50 miles from their homes over the coming weekend, according to AAA Northway’s annual Memorial Day travel survey.
Of those, 31.6 million plan to drive. That’s up 5 percent from last year, and with gas prices approaching four- and five-year highs, consumers are expected to cut back on other expenses, as the summer tourism season begins.
“Three dollars [per gallon] is typically that psychological barrier where people start to make … changes to their daily routine when it comes to driving,” said AAA Northway spokesman Eric Stigberg. “It’s all psychological. When [gas] is in the $2.90s, it feels cheaper than it is when it’s $3.”
Though increased pump prices are unlikely to scrap many trips all together, consumers might try to recoup the perceived expense through other cost-cutting measures, Stigberg said.
“I don’t think people will change vacation plans, but they will change day-to-day driving habits: Start driving less, taking smaller trips, start to look for that gas station that’s maybe a penny or two cheaper than another one, and look to save money that way,” he said.
Other sectors of the economy that could feel the impact include restaurants and hotels.
“That’s one of the things that tends to happen over time. People love to travel, and gas prices are not going to stop them from going,” Stigberg said. “But over time, they’re going to look to save elsewhere. Knowing that I’m going to have to put a few extra dollars in my gas tank, maybe I’ll find a cheaper hotel than where I would normally stay (or) eat at fast food restaurants instead of sitting down for dinner.”
Stigberg also stressed that, at the outset of the summer driving season, motorists should expect crowded highways, particularly around major metropolitan areas. AAA Northway is also advising vacationers to avoid drinking and driving and to avoid driving drowsy.
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Categories: News, Schenectady County