Holiday travelers paying more for gas

Gas prices rise again and force some holiday drivers to stay off the roads. Travel expected to lessen for first time since 2002.

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By David Goldman, staff writer

Gas rose to a record high near $4 a gallon, putting a crimp in Memorial Day travel plans.
This Memorial Day weekend, I plan to travel by...
  • Car
  • Plane
  • Train
  • I am staying home

NEW YORK ( -- Drivers marking the start of summer holiday travel season this weekend are really paying for it at the pump.

The price of gasoline rose for the 20th straight day to less than a dime shy of $4, motorist organization AAA reported Monday.

According to AAA, the national average price for a gallon of regular gas rose to a record high of $3.936, up six-tenths of a cent from the previous high of $3.930.

What a difference a year makes: Last Memorial Day weekend, drivers paid an average of $3.23 a gallon.

Indeed, as gas prices have surged, some drivers have pulled back.

The U.S. Federal Highway Administration said Monday it estimates that Americans drove 4.3% fewer miles on public roads in March. The change - the first year-over-year March decline since 1979 - continues an overall drop in driving that began last November, the agency said.

According to AAA, for the first time since 2002, Americans said they were planning to drive less over the Memorial Day weekend than they did the year before.

The number of Americans traveling 50 or more miles from home this holiday weekend was expected to slip by 0.9% to 37.87 million, the motorist group forecast recently.

"Most people are going to travel closer to home this year, and they're going to take fewer trips," said AAA spokesman Mike Pina.

Among the estimated 12% of Americans who will be traveling this weekend, AAA said 31.7 million people, or 83%, are expected to drive. That's slightly fewer than the 32 million Memorial Day drivers a year ago.

The AAA survey was conducted during the last week of April, when gas was at $3.50 a gallon. Now, drivers in 11 states and the District of Columbia are paying an average above $4 per gallon.

A Deloitte & Touche survey of more than 1,000 Americans conducted May 12-14 found that, as a result of the rise in gas prices, 23% of Americans had altered their Memorial Day weekend travel plans.

Deloitte & Touche found that 12% of would-be travelers had cancelled their vacation plans altogether, and 11% planned on traveling closer to home.

The average traveler is expected to drive 91 miles to and from home this weekend, according to the Deloitte & Touche survey. The average car gets 20.2 miles per gallon, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, so that 91-mile trip will cost drivers $34.92. Last year, that same trip would have cost $29.10.

Air travel will give vacationers no respite from high fuel costs: For the 11% of travelers who planned on flying, the price of a ticket was expected to be 8% higher than it was last year. Most U.S. air carriers have announced fuel surcharges this spring.

Much of the run-up in gasoline can be attributed to record crude oil prices, which have more than doubled over the past year. To top of page

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