Surge in gaso­line prices is al­ter­ing vacation plans

Los Angeles Times - - Business -

[ said. He added that the Ve­gas trip, which in­cludes three nights at the MGM Grand’s new Sig­na­ture ho­tel, was less than half the cost of fly­ing to Cabo San Lu­cas, where they ini­tially planned to go. “We’re sav­ing a bun­dle and I’m happy about that.”

Last week, gas prices na­tion­wide were av­er­ag­ing $3.04 for a gal­lon of reg­u­lar — 25 cents more than a month ago and 15 cents higher than reg­u­lar gas was at the same time last year, ac­cord­ing to the AAA. In the Los An­ge­les-Long Beach area, reg­u­lar gas av­er­aged $3.48 last week, 22 cents higher than last month and 9 cents higher than last year.

Flights over the hol­i­day week­end are av­er­ag­ing about 5% less than last year, with av­er­age air­fare at $166. Car rental rates also are down about 16% to an av­er­age of $31 a day.

But ho­tel rates are up 13% from a year ago with trav­el­ers spend­ing an av­er­age of $174 a night, the AAA said. That may be one rea­son the use of recre­ational ve­hi­cles is ex­pected to be up this year com­pared with 2006 de­spite high fuel costs, ac­cord­ing to a sur­vey of RV own­ers.

But trav­el­ers will tol­er­ate only so much in fuel costs, ac­cord­ing to the Travel In­dus­try Assn., which found in a sur­vey that a third of more than 2,000 re­spon­dents would can­cel a trip if a gal­lon of gas hit a na­tion­wide av­er­age of $3.50.

“There is that small risk that if gaso­line prices do in fact get that high, our in­dus­try will suf­fer,” Cook said.

McGin­nis of Ex­pe­dia Travel Trend­watch is ad­vis­ing his read­ers to try des­ti­na­tions “off the beaten path” to avoid crowds and save money.

For in­stance, try fly­ing north of the border to Que­bec City in­stead of to Paris, which tra­di­tion­ally be­comes one of the sum­mer’s most-crowded — and most ex­pen­sive — des­ti­na­tions. Que­bec City is “right out of a fairy tale, in a French-speak­ing Cana­dian prov­ince,” McGin­nis said.

Or if Hawaii is a fa­vorite, con­sider Punta Cana in the Do­mini­can Repub­lic. “Off the radar of most trav­el­ers, it’s now one of the fastest-grow­ing des­ti­na­tions among Ex­pe­dia trav­el­ers,” he said.

Other ways to save in­clude con­sid­er­ing al­ter­na­tive air­ports. Res­i­dents of the Santa Clarita and San Fer­nando val­leys might con­sider fly­ing out of Palm­dale Re­gional Air­port, where United Air­lines will launch a ser­vice Tues­day with spe­cial in­tro­duc­tory fares, in­clud­ing round trips to Wash­ing­ton, New York, Bos­ton and Chicago via San Fran­cisco for $318.

peter.pae@la­times.com

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