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Traveling season may be robust

Editorial

It’ll be interesting to see whether the spike in gas prices will change people’s vacation plans over the next few months.

On Tuesday, AAA The Auto Club released its predictions on upcoming travel plans, projecting numbers it described as robust. Based on its AAA Consumer Pulse Survey, the auto club said that 83 percent of Georgia residents — that translates to five out of every six — planned to travel this year and that more than three out of five — 62 percent — planned to take two to three vacations of four or more days this year.

Three-quarters of the state’s residents, according to the survey results, planned to travel at least 50 miles from home on vacation, and four out of five were looking to spend at least $2,000 on their trip.

The top five destinations were, in order, a trip to the beach (51 percent), a destination city (50 percent), a cruise (30 percent), an international travel trip (26 percent) and a trip to a theme park (21 percent).

The survey came with a margin or error of plus or minus 5.3 percentage points.

But the survey also was taken in January, when gas prices were a great deal lower than they are now. The average price for a gallon of self-serve gas in Georgia when the survey was taken was $3.302. On Tuesday, the average price in Georgia was $3.762. Albany’s average cost Tuesday was $3.702, according to the AAA Fuel Gauge Report, but some Albany stations were as low as $3.599 Tuesday.

While that’s not a huge difference in the grand scheme of things — a round trip of 400 miles in a vehicle that gets 20 mpg would cost you $75.24 for fuel at $3.762 per gallon of gas, compared to $66.04 for the same trip and vehicle at $3.302 — it does create a psychological factor that has to be overcome.

The price point at which a traveler will change his or her plans varies from person to person, but you have to believe that the sharp jump will make some motorists reconsider their plans or shorten the duration of their trips.

The economy could certainly use some bolstering, and tourists are good at doing that through their spending. Hopefully the fuel prices won’t create too much of a damper on people’s travel plans.