GasBuddy, a PDI company, released on Thursday the results of its annual summer travel survey revealing that even with record-high gasoline prices, 58% of Americans intend to road trip this summer, a rise from last summer, when gas prices were nearly $1.50 per gallon lower. While the high prices may not stand in the way of Americans’ summer travel plans, nearly two-thirds have yet to confirm their plans, with 38% saying that high inflation is leading to difficulty in planning summer trips.
The average gas price in the U.S. topped $4.50 per gallon following a short reprieve in April, and has recently reached new all-time highs. Record-breaking gas prices and general inflation are affecting Americans’ desire to travel with only a one percentage point increase in travel intent year over year, and still 18% lower than 2019’s pre-pandemic level. Gas prices on Memorial Day weekend are forecast to be about $4.65 per gallon, a 51% increase from last year. GasBuddy expects the average price from Memorial Day to Labor Day to be $4.40 per gallon nationally, though significant events could raise or lower the outcome.
Summer Travel Trends
When asked about inflation’s effects on travel plans, 70% said their summer travel plans have been affected by high gas prices (an increase of 24% over 2021). More than a third indicated that high inflation has made planning more difficult, and the majority (65%) are taking only one or two road trips.
The most common amount of time traveled by car will be between two to three and over five hours. Memorial Day Weekend (47%) will be the most popular travel weekend followed by Independence Day (33%) and Labor Day (31%).
“Against a backdrop of gas prices that have continued to set new records ahead of Memorial Day, Americans have been resilient in their desire to hit the road, but we’re certainly seeing increased hesitancy due to rising prices at the pump. Soaring inflation has led to uncertainty over rising costs,” said Patrick De
Haan, head of petroleum analysis for GasBuddy. “The Covid factor is still present, but has been dwarfed this year by Americans’ concern over high gas prices and dwindling affordable travel options to make use of best months of the year.”
Impact on Retail
While this summer’s road trip travel trends will likely result in an increase in convenience store purchases due to ‘typical’ seasonal patterns, significant year-over-year sales growth is not expected and there is potential for a decline based on consumer spending concerns.
“Consumer confidence is lower than we’ve seen in many years. Some sources even suggest that confidence is lower than during the 2008 recession,” said Dafna Gabel, VP, Strategic Insights for PDI Software. “Those surveyed in 2022 shared that inflation has impacted behavior at the pump and in-store across the US. Barring significant shifts in inflation, these behavior adjustments are expected to continue.”
In fact, even with the expected summer increase in travel, consumer behavior has already begun to shift at the pump and in-store, and it is likely that in-store shoppers will continue to buy fewer items during each trip, despite an increase in frequency.
• Change the way you drive. Most vehicles today achieve optimal fuel economy around 55mph. By anticipating the traffic and applying slow steady acceleration and braking, fuel economy may increase by as much as 25%, saving the equivalent of 50 cents to $1 per gallon.
• Shop around online and off to find the best price per gallon. The GasBuddy app allows drivers to easily and conveniently compare prices whether in their local area or on a road trip.
• Sign up for gas rewards and other loyalty programs through retailers to take advantage of discounts available. Also review your credit card benefits, many offer cash back for gas purchases.
GasBuddy will be live on Facebook on Thursday, May 19 at 11 a.m. CT. Media are encouraged to join and are free to record and use any content, audio or video clips from the event.
GasBuddy Summer Travel Survey was completed by 1,971 GasBuddy members between April 28 – May 2, 2022. Summer travel is defined as the period between May 31 – Sept. 9, 2022 (Memorial Day through Labor Day).