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Price at pump won't keep Utahns from vacationing

Published May 26, 2005 12:46 am

But it will have an effect: They will be taking shorter trips, both in time and in distance, says AAA
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2005, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

When the weather starts to warm, Bob Barney starts pulling out his camping gear. This year is no different.

Despite increasing travel expenses, including gas prices that have risen dramatically this year, the Barneys of Herriman - Bob and Tiffany and their three children - don't plan to forgo their summertime travel, though he says the family pretty much will stay close to home this season.

And that is probably a typical decision this year as the approaching Memorial Day weekend kicks off the traditional summer vacation season.

"What we've seen is that people are planning to take shorter trips, and spend about $80 less than last year," said Rolayne Fairclough, spokeswoman for the AAA of Utah, referring to a study that shows Utahns are expected to vacation one day less than last year.

An estimated 330,000 Utahns are expected to travel during the holiday, according to AAA. Some 80 percent will travel by car; an estimated 50,000 will journey by plane, a 5 percent increase from last year. More than 16,000 Utahns plan to travel by bus, train or other means.

Nationwide, more than 37 million Americans will travel this weekend. More than 31 million will travel by car, 4.2 million by plane and 1.9 million are expected to vacation using other modes of transportation.

"The Memorial Day holiday is usually a good indicator of what to expect for the rest of the season," Fairclough said. "These survey results appear to indicate we can expect a strong summer travel season."

In a U.S. survey of 1,000 people in late April conducted by Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Conn., 43.5 percent of Americans said gas prices would affect their summer travel plans. Though most said they still plan to travel, some, like the Barneys, are staying closer to home.

According to AAA, travel expenses have increased 4.8 percent over last year; the biggest impact came from increased gas prices. Gas prices in Salt Lake City averaged $2.17 a gallon this week, a 7 cent drop from last month. Last year in May, the national average price for a gallon of gas was $1.97. Food, lodging and entertainment also are on the rise, Fairclough said.

But one cost that is lower is airfare, which has taken a 10 percent dive in prices from last year. Air travel is expected to jump 5 percent over the holiday weekend.

For those who are traveling close to home, Utah's canyons, reservoirs and lakes are a top destination.

"Many of our parks are already full for the weekend," said Deena Loyola, public affairs coordinator for Utah State Parks. "This is the first year in a long time that we have full reservoirs, and because of the warm weather people are taking advantage of it. We have very few campsites still available."

Only four of 30 state parks that take reservations still have campsites available: Bear Lake, Jordanelle, Starvation and Green River. Only eight parks have day-use sites available. Those arriving at parks without reservations on Friday will have to take their chances. Sites will be given out on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Cost for campsites are comparable to last year, ranging from $8 to $20.

Loyola said none of the state parks has been affected by flooding. She expects to see a busy summer in Utah's outdoors.

"We're optimistic," she said. "High gas prices indicate that people will likely be taking shorter but more frequent trips," many of them to the state's mountains and reservoirs.

"People still like to get away," Fairclough said. "Regardless of concerns over continuing high fuel prices, Utahns are not forsaking their getaway plans with friends and family."

aweeks@sltrib.com

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The AP contributed to this story.

AAA advice

In an effort to help people reduce travel costs this summer,

AAA offers these money-saving tips:

Have vehicles checked by a qualified automotive technician to help avoid possible breakdowns.

Book accommodations in advance to ensure availability, selection and to guarantee the best rate.

Use discounts to help save on lodging, rental cars, restaurants, museums and amusement parks.

Cut food costs by packing your own snacks and meals whenever possible. Consider booking a hotel room where you can cook some of your own meals.

Find lodging in outlying areas, away from tourist destinations.