PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Gas prices surged to record highs within the last week, but that isn’t discouraging people from hitting the road Memorial Day Weekend, AAA says.
“Unfortunately, we will continue to set record highs, it looks like, over the coming days through the Memorial Day weekend. However, despite the skyrocketing gas prices, we are still seeing a huge demand for travel,” said Marie Dodds, director of government and public affairs for AAA Oregon and Idaho.
Dodds said that while the price of gas has remained high over the last couple months, it hasn’t resulted in the decrease in travel some people might have expected. She said if people need to cut costs, they’re doing it in areas besides travel.
She thinks that after sticking close to home for about 2 years during the pandemic, people are ready to get out again and are willing to spend more to do so.
“If we weren’t in a period where we were coming out of the pandemic, we might see demand for gas retract, but we are not seeing that,” Dodds said.
As of Thursday, AAA says the average price per gallon of gas in Oregon is $5.17. The national average is $4.60 per gallon.
Dodds said the cost of almost everything travel-related is high right now, including flights and lodging. The only travel-related expense that’s gone down in price recently is car rentals. Dodds said this is because the severe car rental shortage that impacted the industry in summer 2021 had eased a bit.
Over Memorial Day Weekend, AAA expects the number of travelers to increase 8% in 2022 compared to 2021, both nationally and in Oregon. Nationwide, AAA predicts more than 39 million people will travel and in Oregon, about 530,000. This means travel levels have nearly returned to what they were pre-pandemic.
Of those travelers, about 89% of people plan to drive to their destinations.
Air travel is expected to be up 25% from 2021.
Across the U.S., the demand for gasoline has not been decreasing. It’s been hovering at around 9 million barrels a day. Dodds attributes that not only to people eagerly returning to travel, but also returning to their normal routines like commuting to work and dropping their kids off at school.
“When we look at gasoline demand numbers, they look pretty typical for May numbers despite the fact that here in Oregon, we’re paying more than five bucks a gallon for gas,” Dodds said.
According to AAA surveys, the top in-state destinations for Oregonians this Memorial Day weekend are Central Oregon, the Oregon Coast, and Crater Lake.
Top domestic destinations include Orlando, Fla.; Maui, Hawaii; and Anaheim, Calif.
Dodds said travel to Europe is also rebounding after the pandemic. People from Oregon and Idaho plan to visit Dublin, Paris, Rome and London.
AAA expects it will need to “rescue” more than 388,000 drivers nationwide over Memorial Day Weekend. Dodds reminds people to visit the mechanic before hitting the road or check their battery. She said car batteries only have a lifespan of around 3 years and older batteries could be affected by higher temperatures.
Dodds believes the increased Memorial Day travel is a sign of what to expect in the summer and said people should start planning their trips now.
“Planning a vacation is different now than it was before the pandemic. So with all the demand expected this summer, if you wait until the last minute you may be out of luck,” she said.
With COVID-19 still impacting people’s travel plans, she reminds people that it’s a good idea to invest in travel insurance.