For the past two years, many people saved money by taking road trips instead of paying for airfares and rental cars. But, with gas now averaging almost $5 a gallon, and hotel prices sharply higher, those classic American road trips are not the great deal they used to be.
Doug Pletcher and his dog Rusty are taking a road trip in his 30-foot pull-behind camper.
But, with his pickup truck guzzling expensive diesel fuel, Pletcher decided to shorten his trip.
“I’m only getting 7 miles to the gallon, at $5.50 a gallon,” he said.
Other travelers we found at a highway rest stop told us gas prices are starting to impact their travel plans as well. Robert Thompson, on his way to visit relatives in Florida, says he’ll have to cut costs somewhere to make up for it.
“It’s a little tough, but we want to see family,” he said, “so we are just biting the bullet.”
It’s not just high gas prices
High gas prices, however, are just one reason why your summer road trip will be more expensive this year.
Once you get to your destination, you can expect to pay a lot more too.
Paula Twidale of AAA says mid-range hotel prices are up more than 40 percent this year, with average rates of $200 or more at many basic hotels. Resort hotels, or those on the beach, are often $400 or more.
If your trip involves renting a car, those $29 rental cars of years past seem long gone. You can expect to pay about $100 per day this summer.
“If I’m going for a week I’m paying 700, 800 dollars for a car so it starts to get quite expensive,” Twidale said.
She says inflation is not yet stopping people from traveling, especially because many people postponed travel plans for the last two years, during the pandemic.
She expects RV enthusiasts to drive fewer miles, due to those high gas prices and sold-out campsites.
“You’re going to probably see fewer people taking campers,” Twidale said. “Keep in mind last year and the year before campers were very popular because it was a way for you to kind of contain your environment during COVID.”
What you can do to keep costs down
Obviously, there is not much you can do about the high average price of gasoline. But, Twidale has other ways to save on your summer road trip:
- Pack food and eat lunch at a rest area.
- Book a suite with a kitchen, as opposed to a standard room, so you can cook one or two dinners.
- If you’re visiting an attraction like Disney World, stay off the property where hotels are half the price.
- Look for member discounts, like those offered by AAA.
- Find out if there’s a discount for paying in full, in advance, for the hotel room.
Finally, she says, don’t wait: Summer hotel rates and airfares are not coming down until after Labor Day.
“People cannot wait for that great deal they think is down the road,” Twidale cautioned.
So plan early and book early, and that way you don’t waste your money.