Americans Gear Up for Extra Summer Road Trip if Gas Prices Remain Low

Others will save more, increase shopping or use more expensive gas
A mom fills her car up with gas

While 40% of American adults plan to take a family vacation this year, 1 in 3 Americans will add in another summer road trip if gas prices stay low.

AAA frequently conducts surveys about Americans’ travel plans, as well as surveys on gas prices and consumers’ reactions to them. A recent survey of 1,007 adults found that most families planning at least one trip this year—68%—will travel during the summer, while 45% have some travel plans during the spring. Road trips are the most popular method of family travel with 53% of families with travel plans choosing to go by car.

Cost may be one of the factors leading families to choose the highway over other types of transportation. Not only might families save on the costs of airfare, but gas prices in the first few months of this year have been lower than they were at the same period last year, AAA found. In fact, AAA forecasts the national average gas price to top out at $2.75 this spring, which would be nearly 20 cents lower than last spring’s $2.92.

With families needing to spend less money to fill their tanks, a AAA Gas Price survey found that many are considering making changes to their vacation plans. Not only would 33% embark on an extra road trip, but 27% said they would use the extra money they’re saving to increase the distance of a road trip that’s already planned. Gen Xers were more likely to add to their summer vacation plans than baby boomers.

But Americans aren’t just looking at lower gas prices as an incentive to travel more. Some are planning to adjust their spending and saving habits, though the changes they would make vary based on generation and where they live.

  • Millennials are most likely to boost their savings, with 53% saying low prices would prompt them to save more compared to 49% of Gen Xers and 44% of baby boomers.
  • Gen Xers were more focused on consumption, as that generation was more likely to increase shopping and dining out, and drive more than baby boomers. Gen Xers were also more likely to buy more expensive gas if gas prices remained low.
  • Approximately 11% of drivers in the South and 10% of drivers in the West would use the savings to buy more expensive gas while only 5% of drivers in the Midwest and 7% of drivers in the Northeast would do the same.

Since gas prices fluctuate, they can wreak havoc on your budget if you don’t pay attention to how much you’re spending from month to month. If prices are lower than what you budgeted for, think about where those extra savings can be most useful. Consider setting some of the money aside to use when gas prices go back up again. If you’re in debt, you might also use some of those gas savings to pay down your debt a little faster. By keeping an eye on the prices of your day-to-day necessities such as gas, you can adjust your budget accordingly and make sure your dollars are having the greatest impact.

Tamara E. Holmes

Tamara E. Holmes is a Washington, DC-based writer who covers personal finance, entrepreneurship and careers.

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