Wednesday, August 15, 2018

High gas prices won’t dampen Floridians’ Memorial Day driving plans

A spike of 16 cents a gallon in Tampa Bay gas prices in just one week doesn’t typically inspire motorists to hit the road. But soaring pump prices aren’t expected to deter some 2 million Floridians that AAA, The Auto Club Group, forecasts will travel by car Memorial Day weekend for summer’s start.

That’s up nearly 6 percent from last year when a fill-up was much less expensive.

"Higher gas prices will not be enough to keep travelers home this Memorial Day weekend," said Vicky Evans, the auto club’s assistant vice president, travel sales development. "A strong economy and growing consumer confidence are giving Americans all the motivation they need to kick off what we expect to be a busy summer travel season with a Memorial Day getaway."

Tampa Bay gas prices hit $2.79 per gallon on average Monday, 52 cents higher than this time last year. State prices averaged $2.82 per gallon, up 10 cents over the week and 50 cents over the year.

That’s the highest since November 2014, according to AAA, and Memorial Day weekend prices are expected to be at a four-year high.

Nationally, gas was $2.88 per gallon Tuesday.

A number of factors are responsible for pushing prices up. Demand both domestically and globally is up and steady right now, AAA said, while oil supplies are down slightly. Gas stations are also switching to summer blends, and gas prices overall are at four-year highs.

The U.S. sanctions against Iran may also impact gas prices, AAA said, as oil prices jumped last week following President Trump withdrawing from the Iran Nuclear Deal.

Related coverage: Record number of Floridians traveling for Memorial Day>

How Floridians will likely travel for Memorial Day:

• Automobiles:

Nearly 2 million Floridians are expected to travel by road for the holiday weekend, accounting for 89 percent of those traveling. That’s up 100,000 — 5 percent — from last year.

• Planes:

About 177,000 Florida residents — 8 percent — will take to the air for Memorial Day, a 12,500-traveler (7.6 percent) increase from 2017.

• Buses, cruise ships and trains:

Roughly 3 percent of Sunshine State residents will opt for these slightly more leisurely travel methods, totaling about 62,100 this year, up 1.3 percent (about 1,000 travelers) from last year.

Best and worst times to drive:

Worst: AAA forecasts that the busiest times to travel by car will be Thursday May 24 and Friday May 25 in the late afternoon, as motorists will have to compete with commuters.

Best: Traffic is expected to pick up beginning Wednesday May 23. AAA recommends hitting the road in the late morning and early afternoon and looking for alternate routes.

National travel stats:

Americans traveling: 41.5 million

Americans driving: 36.6 million

No. 1 travel destination: Orlando

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Contact this reporter at [email protected] or (727) 892-2249. Follow @malenacarollo.

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