Holiday travel expected to spike despite high prices at the pumps

While gas prices in the Rochester area topped out at $3 per gallon this week — the highest Memorial Day week average locally since 2018 — experts are predicting a spike in travel for the holiday.


GasBuddy this week said the average price of a gallon of gas in Rochester rose 2.5 cents to $3, while AAA Western and Central New York reported an average price of $3.02. A year ago, the average price at the pump was $2.17 locally.

Statewide, AAA reported the average price as $3.07, up from $2.18 a year ago. Nationally this week, the average price for unleaded gas was $3.04, according to AAA and $3.02, according to GasBuddy.

“In the lead up to Memorial Day, we haven’t seen gas prices come down much, though with oil’s recent move lower we should start to see more drops at the pump materialize in the days ahead,” said Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis for GasBuddy. “With the Colonial Pipeline situation continuing to improve in Southeastern states, fueling up for the holiday weekend shouldn’t be too challenging, save for a few pockets in Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina, where outages remain a bit higher than neighboring states.”

De Haan said we can expect prices to continue to inch lower and advised motorists to wait to fuel up for weekend travel.

“Motorists need not rush to fill their tanks as the drop in oil prices should manifest into lower gas prices as we begin the summer driving season,” he said.

GasBuddy is not expecting summer gas prices to set any records; rather the company is predicting a settling to levels similar to 2018.

AAA is expecting a significant rebound in the number of Americans planning to travel this weekend. From May 27 through May 31, more than 37 million people are expected to travel at least 50 miles from home, a 60 percent increase from last year when just 23 million people traveled. Last year’s travel, during the height of the pandemic and stay-at-home orders, was the lowest on record since AAA began keeping records in 2000.

“As more people get the COVID-19 vaccine and consumer confidence grows, Americans are demonstrating a strong desire to travel this Memorial Day,” said Paula Twidale, senior president of AAA Travel. “This pent-up demand will result in a significant increase in Memorial Day travel, which is a strong indicator for summer, though we must all remember to continue taking important safety precautions.”

In a press conference Thursday, AAA said that daily car rental rates have doubled compared with last Memorial Day, topping out at $134. Some consumers have experienced high costs and limited availability of rental cars in some markets due to rental companies selling off their fleets last year, as well as the chip shortage impacting auto manufacturers limiting inventory among rental companies.

AAA also noted that average airfares have increased 14 percent over last Memorial Day and mid-range hotel rates have increased between 29 and 34 percent, with nightly rates between $140 and $181 for AAA Two Diamond and AAA Three Diamond hotels, respectively.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) this week said it is prepared for an expected increase in the number of travelers who will be flying out of Frederick Douglass Greater Rochester International Airport.

“We are prepared to handle the expected increase in travel volume this summer and at the same time, TSA is committed to supporting a healthy and secure environment for airline passengers, security personnel and airport employees,” said TSA’s Federal Security Director for Upstate New York Bart Johnson. “For those who will be traveling this summer, travelers need to know that the checkpoint experience will look different to those who have not flown since the start of the pandemic, and individuals flying out of Rochester should be prepared for those changes.”

Everyone in the airport is required to wear a mask when they are in airports, bus and rail stations, as well as while on passenger aircraft, public transportation, passenger railroads and over-the-road buses operating on scheduled fixed-routes, officials noted. If a traveler does not have a mask, a TSA officer will offer one to that individual at the checkpoint.

“We have what I call a ‘new normal’ at airport security checkpoints since the start of the pandemic,” Johnson said.

A TSA officer cleans a bin at Frederick Douglass Greater Rochester International Airport. (provided)
A TSA officer cleans a bin at Frederick Douglass Greater Rochester International Airport. (provided)

Travelers and security officers will be wearing masks and there will be reminders to socially distance posted at the checkpoint. Security officers will change their gloves between each pat down and travelers can request that an officer put on a new pair of gloves at any time. Security employees will be conducting routine cleaning and disinfecting of frequently touched surfaces and security screening equipment at the checkpoints.

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Follow Velvet Spicer on Twitter: @Velvet_Spicer

Gas prices drop just in time for Memorial Day travel

Whether by planes or trains or automobiles, Americans will be traveling at record volumes this weekend.

AAA projects that nearly 43 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more this Memorial Day weekend—with a record-breaking number taking road trips. The vast majority of travelers, some 37.6 million, will hit the road, the most on record for the holiday and 3.5 percent more than last year.

And drivers will pay less for gas this year than last, AAA Western and Central New York said. The average price for a gallon of gasoline in New York State is $2.96—last year it was $3.08. The national average is $2.84, according to AAA.

Gas prices across the state vary, but not by much:
• Batavia – $2.85
• Buffalo – $2.89
• Ithaca – $2.87
• Rochester – $2.89
• Rome – $2.89
• Syracuse – $2.86
• Watertown – $2.96 this week reported that 75 percent of Americans will take a road trip this summer, a 16 percent increase from last year, although 38 percent cited high gas prices for impacting their summer travel decisions.

The national average for gas prices had surged 67 cents from the beginning of the year until May 4, when it peaked at $2.89. GasBuddy predicts the national average for Memorial Day weekend will be $2.83 per gallon, 14 cents cheaper than a year ago.

“For many Americans, this spring has pinched pocketbooks at a dizzying rate, but that still won’t hold back many from hitting the road for the 90 days or so of prime summer weather,” GasBuddy’s head of petroleum analysis Patrick DeHaan said in a statement. “While the rise in prices has been steep this spring, perhaps the most important factor is that in many places, gas prices are still well below their all-time highs and perhaps even more importantly, over 50 percent of the nation’s gas stations are selling at $2.99 per gallon or less, and that’s a key ingredient in the recipe for many Americans to hit the road again this summer.”

GasBuddy on May 20 reported Rochester’s average gas price as $2.88, compared with $3.02 a year ago. On May 20, 2011, the average price at the pump locally was $4.01 per gallon.

In a separate statement, DeHaan noted that with a trade deal with China unlikely, we may continue to see weakness in oil and gas prices.

“Of course, the trade tensions are not the only issue we’re monitoring for now, but we continue to believe that additional slow relief will trickle to pumps in the next week as more refiners get back into the game and boost production,” he said. “I expect the bulk of states to see lower gas prices continue just in time for Memorial Day while some, inevitably, will see increases.”

[email protected] / 585-653-4021
Follow Velvet Spicer on Twitter: @Velvet_Spicer