06/07/10 — Cheaper gas might boost summer travel

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Cheaper gas might boost summer travel

By Laura Collins
Published in News on June 7, 2010 1:46 PM

With gas prices dropping in recent weeks, travel experts are saying they expect more people on the roads this summer. But many Wayne County residents still recall the high prices of recent years and aren't ready to give up their budget vacations or to stop watching their gas usage.

Tom Crosby of AAA Carolinas said it's likely more people will go on extended vacations, rather than staying close to home to save money.

"I think people are going to take the road trips. With the economy improving and the unemployment rate decreasing, everything seems to be inching in a good direction," he said. "And all of those factors are contributing. As far as people planning their vacation, we think they're waiting a little closer to the time to make a decision on where to go."

The average price of unleaded regular in North Carolina last week was $2.67, but Crosby said that price has been dropping daily since May 7. Area residents have seen prices dip below $2.50 per gallon.

For local residents, the pain at the pump has been reduced but the memories of high prices haven't gone away.

Helen Lacewell parked her GMC Yukon when gas hit $4 in the summer of 2008. It's back on the streets now -- toting 10 grandchildren -- but the memory of the high prices still hasn't completely faded. She still keeps trips to a minimum, calling friends on the telephone instead of driving to see them and being more efficient about going out for groceries or other necessities.

"I don't move unless I have to. I used to shop Wal-Mart every week. I try to make it no more than twice a month now."

She said she fears the Gulf oil spill will eventually have a negative effect on the price of gas.

"Probably in the next three or four months, unless the president steps in," Mrs. Lacewell said.

Gilbert Vela, an Army soldier stationed at Fort Bragg, was in Wayne County to visit a junkyard, finding parts to repair his Chevy Blazer. He said he expects gas to eventually become even cheaper in the future. In the meantime, Vela saves money by riding his motorcycle when he doesn't need the Blazer. He took up the habit of increased cycling when gas prices hit their peak, and he still uses it whenever he can.

Angelica Santibanez, 17-year-old San Diego resident who recently moved to Magnolia, uses her red Ford Mustang to visit her boyfriend in the southern end of Wayne County. Although her boyfriend usually makes the drive to Magnolia to see her, she feels the pain of making a $35 tank fillup when she drives to southern Wayne County, Miss Santibanez said.

"This car uses a lot of gas," she admitted.

When gas prices peaked, she and her friends started car-pooling to the mall, with everyone chipping in to help the driver with gas, Ms. Santibanez said.

But since the prices have eased back down in recent months, the teen admitted the number of miles she drives is back up.

"It's cheap enough to do that again. You can ride around a little bit, and not worry so much about what it's going to cost," she said.

Randy Milling of Goldsboro echoed her comments.

"Gas prices aren't as bad as they used to be, but they aren't as good either," he said.

Milling said gas prices won't stop him and his family from making their annual trip to the Outer Banks in July.

"It's just something that we do. It's something that we'll always do. I'm not willing to give that up even if it means watching what I spend the rest of the year."

Other people found alternatives to long trips during the period of high gas prices and many seem reluctant to return to their previous ways.

Anita Holloman of Goldsboro and her family decided two years ago to forego their annual trip to South Carolina and enjoy events closer to home. They took up camping and intend to continue to save on gas.

"We've found that it's not where you are, but who you're with. Even if the prices keep coming down, we might stick with this," she said.