Gasoline prices are an ‘important factor’ in summer vacation plans, according to polls – The Washington Post | Gmx Pharm


A majority of Americans say they are likely to take summer vacations this year, but high prices for gas, hotels and flights are weighing on those plans, a Washington Post-Schar School poll found.

Of less concern for this year’s travelers: coronavirus, which fewer than 3 in 10 Americans say is a major factor in their summer vacation plans.

With inflation at its highest level in four decades, cost concerns are dominating travel considerations this summer. About 6 in 10 Americans, 61 percent, say gas prices are an “important factor” when planning their summer vacation. A majority of 54 percent say hotel or accommodation prices play an important role in their plans, and 52 percent say the same about airfares.

Of the 72 percent of Americans who say they “definitely” or “probably” more than three quarters expect to travel at least part of the time by car. Half plan to take a flight to get to their vacation destinations, according to the survey of 1,055 adults across the country conducted by The Post and George Mason University’s Schar School of Policy and Government.

According to the AAA, the national average for a gallon of gasoline has set a record every day since May 10. As of Wednesday, the national average was $4.59 — and the organization is wondering if prices “can only go up.”

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Year-on-year, airfares rose 33 percent in April, while overnight rates rose more than 22 percent, according to an index of travel prices compiled by the US Travel Association.

For MaríaVerónica Garibay, a project manager at a virtual events company in Chicago, that increase — combined with broader inflation — means making careful decisions before and during her planned vacations to Pittsburgh in July and Palm Springs in September.

“I’ve tried using digital coupons,” she said.

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She will be staying at a friend’s house on her trip to Pittsburgh and has booked an Airbnb well in advance for a friend’s bachelorette party in Palm Springs.

“As much as we wanted to splurge, we all had to get down to a middle number,” she said. “When we finally settled on a number, I think that also shifted some of the activities that we had been talking about.”

Garibay got a new job during the pandemic that gives her more free time and is better paid, so she can now travel more flexibly. And many friends suggest trips.

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“I have all these options, but I’m trying to be financially responsible,” she said.

Garibay, who has now been vaccinated and boosted, said her fear of the coronavirus kept her from wanting to travel earlier in the pandemic. She said she feels uncomfortable when people don’t keep their distance in crowded places. Still, she said she’s trying to “live my best life and stay safe and be careful when I can,” while acknowledging the risks of being on the road.

“I’m just trying to live because I felt like I hadn’t lived at all for two years,” she said.

According to Washington Post data, coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths are rising in the United States — but well below the Omicron peak from earlier this year. Experts say official infection numbers, which miss most home tests, are lower than the real number. However, other tools are available to protect people from serious illness and death, including vaccination, booster shots, and therapeutic treatments.

The Post-Schar School poll found that about one in four Americans (26 percent) plan to take more vacation days this summer than a normal pre-pandemic summer, while a similar 27 percent plan to take fewer days and 47 percent fewer vacation days take as many vacations.

When asked about the cost, 27 percent plan to spend more than usual on vacations this summer, while 35 percent plan to spend less and 37 percent plan to spend the same amount.

Robert Martin, a 74-year-old retired police officer who lives in Winter Springs, Fla., said he has traveled the world by air, sea and land. Once he even had a mobile home. But this year, he said, he will stay put.

“Because of the economy and whatnot, it’s easier to stay where we are and use the local swimming pool,” he said.

The day before speaking to a reporter, he said he was exploring the possibility of traveling nearby in the next few weeks.

“It’s so expensive compared to the cost of housing,” he said. “And besides, of course you’re traveling somewhere, even if it’s nearby, you still have to go out to eat and stuff, enjoy yourself. It’s easier to just stay at home and cheaper in price.”

As a resident of Central Florida, Martin has relatively easy access to where most people want to vacation. Beaches are the top vacation spots for Americans this summer, with 64 percent of vacationers saying they plan to go to the beach.

44 percent of vacationers prefer a mountain or lake, while 39 percent plan a city break, 35 percent visit a national or state park, 22 percent visit an amusement park, and 9 percent plan a cruise.

Tulsa geologist Jake Jones, 25, has big plans in September when he gets married and goes to St. Lucia for his honeymoon. He said he observed airline ticket prices, which he described as “ridiculous.”

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In the meantime, he plans to stay local, fish, play golf, and have a BBQ. And probably minimize driving.

“Everything is so damn expensive right now,” he said.

The most popular vacation activity, the survey found, is essentially free: About 3 in 4 Americans say they enjoy relaxing on vacation. Three-quarters like to eat out in restaurants when they travel, while 65 percent like going to a beach or swimming pool.

Almost half of Americans say they enjoy exploring outdoors when they vacation — 49 percent say they enjoy visiting parks or zoos, and 45 percent enjoy outdoor activities like hiking, biking, running or yoga.

About as many, 48 percent, say they enjoy going to museums, learning about culture, or going on tours. Another 45 percent say they enjoy shopping while on vacation, while 34 percent enjoy going to theme parks and 32 percent enjoy going to concerts or shows.

When asked about travel companions, most summer vacationers said they plan to travel with a spouse or partner. About 4 in 10 said they travel with other family members in their household and a third plan to meet up with other family members. A quarter plan to travel with friends, while 1 in 8 plan to travel alone.

The poll found that 78 percent plan to travel within the United States, while 22 percent plan to travel abroad this summer.

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Friederike Lehrbass, 57, a part-time violin teacher from Plano, Texas, hasn’t finalized her plans yet, but she’s hoping to take a week off to attend a religious convention in Fort Worth.

She is allowed to travel to Germany, where she comes from and where her 87-year-old mother lives. But she said she would also like to replicate a short break she took last year with her two teenagers, now 17 and 19. They got an Airbnb about an hour away in a small country house with horses nearby.

“I’d love to do it, but I’m not sure we’ll have the finances,” she said.

This post-Schar school survey was conducted April 21-May 12 among a random national sample of 1,055 adults who contacted by mail about a random sample of US households and completed the survey online or by mail a questionnaire. The sampling error is plus or minus four percentage points for the overall results; Results among summer vacationers have a margin of error of five points.

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