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AAA Carolinas: Gas Price Escalation and Hurricane Isaac Machinations to Adversely Effect Holiday Travel

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Aug. 30, 2012. Escalating gas prices and gloomy weather predictions due to Hurricane Isaac are expected to dampen Labor Day holiday travel this weekend by North Carolinians, according to AAA Carolinas.

An expected 926,300 North Carolina residents will travel more than 50 miles from home during the five-day Labor Day holiday travel period (Aug. 30-Sept. 3), roughly the same number of travelers as last year.

“A month ago, we expected a robust increase this year for the Labor Day holiday travel weekend, but with the recent spike in gas prices and the threat of Hurricane Isaac, many last-minute travelers will choose to stay home,” said David E. Parsons, president and CEO of AAA Carolinas.

North Carolina gas prices have increased an average of a penny a day since July 4, rising from $3.18 to $3.72 a gallon – up 54 cents in the past 55 days. Last year, Labor Day prices averaged $3.57 a gallon in North Carolina. 

The most expensive gas is found in Greensboro at an average $3.77 a gallon; the least expensive is in Winston-Salem at $3.69. The average price in North Carolina is $3.72. 

Motorists, who represent 85 percent or 787,400 of North Carolina holiday travelers, will encounter some relief at the gas pumps in Virginia, where prices are 10 cents lower on average, and in South Carolina, where the lowest gas prices in the nation offer an average 23 cents a gallon savings. 

Beaches face iffy weather conditions based on current weather forecasts, with predictions likely to change based on what Hurricane Isaac does.

The most popular driving destinations for Carolina travelers are Asheville, Washington D.C., Wilmington, Atlanta, Boston, Pigeon Forge, New Orleans, Savannah, Pittsburgh and Williamsburg, according to AAA Vacations, which tracks hotel bookings and TripTik routings. 

“Keep your gas costs down by not speeding, avoiding quick starts and stops, using cruise control and improve your highway safety by not drinking and driving, texting behind the wheel and resting every 2-3 hours,” said Parsons.

The North Carolina Highway Patrol has implemented a “Booze It & Lose It” Labor Day campaign, which includes checkpoints and stepped-up patrols in an effort to remove intoxicated drivers from the roads. The campaign kicked off Aug. 17 and runs through Monday, Sept. 3.

Prior to the run-up in gasoline prices and Hurricane Isaac, AAA Carolinas saw a 5% increase in Labor Day travel bookings, a 10% increase in online mapping requests and a 4% increase in travel publication requests.

Airfares have decreased 4% this year, with an average lowest round-trip rate of $197 for the top 40 U.S. air routes, according to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index. Airline travelers are expected to number 74,100, about 8% of weekend travelers and another 7%, or 64,800, will travel by other modes.

Hotel rates have increased – AAA Three Diamond hotels are up 4% from last year and AAA Two Diamond hotels are up 6%.

Motorists taking a trip can budget estimated gas costs for their personal vehicles on www.fuelcostcalculator.com. By entering origin, destination, make and model of their vehicle, motorists receive the estimated gasoline cost for their trip. 

AAA Mobile, free to the public, is a GPS-based app, that can be downloaded on iPhone or Android devices for gasoline prices, maps, directions, AAA rated hotels and restaurants and Approved Auto Repair facilities. Anyone can learn about the AAA Mobile app at AAA.com/mobile