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Summer road trip sticker shock: How to keep costs down

Gasoline, food, rental cars, and hotels all up in price
Florida Beaches
Posted at 4:00 AM, May 30, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-30 07:54:50-04

For the past two years, many people saved money by taking road trips instead of paying for airfares and rental cars.

But with gas now averaging almost $5 a gallon and hotel prices sharply higher, those classic American road trips are not the great deal they used to be.

Doug Pletcher and his dog Rusty are taking a road trip in his 30-foot pull-behind camper, but with his pickup truck guzzling expensive diesel fuel, Pletcher decided to shorten his trip.

"I'm only getting 7 miles to the gallon at $5.50 a gallon," he said.

Other travelers at a highway rest stop said gas prices are starting to impact their travel plans as well. Robert Thompson, on his way to visit relatives in Florida, said he'll have to cut costs somewhere to make up for it.

"It's a little tough, but we want to see family," he said, "so we are just biting the bullet."

It's not just high gas prices

High gas prices, however, are just one reason why a summer road trip will be more expensive this year. Once you get to your destination, you can expect to pay a lot more, too.

Paula Twidale of AAA said mid-range hotel prices are up more than 40% this year, with average rates of $200 or more at many basic hotels. Resort hotels, or those on the beach, are often $400 or more.

If a trip involves renting a car, those $29 rental cars of years past seem long gone. Expect to pay about $100 per day this summer.

"If I'm going for a week I'm paying $700-800 for a car, so it starts to get quite expensive," Twidale said.

She said inflation is not yet stopping people from traveling, especially because many people postponed travel plans for the last two years during the pandemic.

She expects RV enthusiasts to drive fewer miles due to those high gas prices and sold-out campsites.

"You're going to probably see fewer people taking campers," Twidale said. "Keep in mind last year and the year before. campers were very popular because it was a way for you to kind of contain your environment during COVID."

What to do to keep costs down

Obviously, there is not much that can be done about the high average price of gasoline, but Twidale has other ways to save on a summer road trip:

  • Pack food and eat lunch at a rest area.
  • Book a suite with a kitchen, as opposed to a standard room, to cook one or two dinners.
  • If visiting an attraction like Disney World, stay off the property where hotels are half the price.
  • Look for member discounts, like those offered by AAA.
  • Find out if there's a discount for paying in full in advance for the hotel room.

Finally, she said, don't wait: Summer hotel rates and airfares are not coming down until after Labor Day.
"People cannot wait for that great deal they think is down the road," Twidale said.

So plan early and book early, and that way you don't waste your money.


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