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Americans still plan holiday travel despite record gas prices

Even with gas at $4.57 per gallon, three out of five Americans are planning a weekend road trip, according to one online survey.

INDIANAPOLIS — With the price of gas and diesel fuel at their highest levels ever, many more Americans are apparently planning to hit the road for Memorial Day weekend than during last year's pandemic holiday.

The national average price of gasoline rose 11 cents per gallon over the last week, according to GasBuddy.com, averaging $4.57 per gallon on Monday. That price represents a 45.4 cents per gallon increase from the spring break travel window a month ago, and is running almost a dollar a gallon more than any May dating back 10 years.

Despite the record price of gas, three out of five Americans are still planning a Memorial Day weekend road trip, according to a recent survey by Vacationer.com. The online survey of more than 1,000 U.S. adults showed a sharp contrast to the same weekend in 2021, when slightly more than one out of four Americans planned to travel, leading one to conclude that the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted travel plans more than record-high gas prices.

"People are overdue for a vacation, and they are looking to catch up on some much-needed R&R in the coming months,” said Paula Twidale, the senior vice president of AAA Travel.

AAA predicts 39.2 million people will travel 50 miles or more from home this Memorial Day weekend. This is an increase of 8.3% over 2021, bringing travel volumes almost in line with the pre-pandemic levels of 2017. 

A gallon of gas in Indianapolis only cost $2.28 for Memorial Day that year, exactly half of what that same gallon costs today.

The driving costs per trip have more than doubled compared to last year, when fuel demand was much lower during the pandemic. According to AAA's Fuel Cost Calculator, for example, a road trip in a minivan that gets 25 miles per gallon from Indianapolis to the Grand Canyon would cost about $680 for fuel now. That's about $286 more than that trip cost last summer. 

Gas prices in Indianapolis outstripped the national increase by rising 18.7 cents per gallon in the last week, and sat at $4.56 Monday. According to GasBuddy price reports, the cheapest station in Indianapolis was priced at $4.34 Sunday, while the most expensive was $4.89. 

Across Indiana, the lowest price came in at $4.29, with the highest reaching a whopping $5.14 on Sunday.

“Gasoline prices surged over the last week to new record highs," said Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy. "With more Americans planning to hit the road for Memorial Day this year compared to last, prices will be over $1.50 per gallon higher than last year."

De Haan said price increases appear to be slowing down, for now. 

"While the coast isn't clear yet, and prices will be at their highest Memorial Day level ever, I'm hopeful that we could avoid a dreaded national average of $5 per gallon this year," De Haan said. "Whether or not we're able to depends on Americans cutting demand in the face of sky-high prices."

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