Even with higher gas prices, travel is up

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 1, 2009

By Steve Huffman
At the Kangaroo convenience store in Spencer last week, Carl Edwards stopped to fill his car with gas.
At the time, the price of a gallon of regular unleaded at the store was $2.21. (Note to savings-conscious readers, the Kangaroo has since raised its prices.)
“They haven’t heard what it’s selling for on the other side of Salisbury,” Edwards said of the store’s managers. “Over there, it’s already $2.39 a gallon.”
Edwards paused before continuing, in the process expressing the opinion of countless others.
“It’s all just a racket, anyway,” he said, referring to the up-and-down nature of gas prices.
There’s good news and bad news in regards to the fluctuation in gas prices over the past year. The good news: gas is selling for about $1.50 a gallon less than a year ago.
And the bad: prices have risen more than 25 cents a gallon over the past month and are significantly higher than this past winter when regular unleaded could be found for under $1.50 a gallon.
Despite that latter information, travel over the Memorial Day holiday increased by about 5 percent as compared to a year ago according to AAA Carolinas.
An estimated 754,000 North Carolina drivers and another 369,000 from South Carolina took to the roads over the three-day weekend. In North Carolina, 60,000 people flew. In South Carolina, the number was 32,000.
Promotional offers across the travel industry are encouraging travel. Three-star hotel rates are down 12 percent from last year and car rental rates have fallen by 3 percent.
“Our vacation services department has seen consumers traveling smarter this year,” said Dave Parsons, president of AAA Carolinas. “Travelers are watching their budgets, looking for promotions, choosing accommodations that offer free breakfast or ones with kitchen facilities to cut down dining expenses.”
The average price for flights originating in the Carolinas is $252 for a round-trip ticket. AAA reported that the majority of air travel to the north over the Memorial Day weekend flew to New York while the majority of southbound flew to Orlando.
As bad as the recent spike in gas prices is, it’s less than the increase of recent years. In 2008 and 2007, gas prices in the Carolinas increased 50 cents between the Easter and Memorial Day holidays.
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Those wishing to find the cheapest gas can go to www.aaa.com/fuelfinder to find the best prices in a 3-, 5- or 10-mile radius of their choosing. The information is obtained from credit card transactions at more than 85,000 stations throughout the United States.