The Griswold family of "National Lampoon's Vacation" fame would be proud. A recent AAA survey indicates that more than one-third of all Americans are planning a family vacation over the next 12 months.
One key factor involves prices at the fuel pumps. While prices have nudged up over the past several weeks, the fact remains that summer gas prices are expected to be at the lowest level in about a dozen years.
More than half of those surveyed say lower fuel costs have made it more likely that they'll embark on road trips. AAA Western and Central New York Public Affairs Director Elizabeth Carey said nearly half of the families planning a trip are going to national parks.
“This is a great year to go visit the national parks because they’re celebrating their centennial anniversary,” Carey told WBFO. “As far as local travelers, we’re seeing a lot of local Western New Yorkers looking for information on parks like Shenandoah and Virginia, Acadia along the east coast there, or the Smoky Mountains.”
National parks are waiving entrance fees this weekend and a few other times throughout the year.
AAA said it expects gas prices to rise heading into Labor Day weekend, but some experts doubt the increase will alter vacationers’ travel plans. U.S. drivers have saved nearly $12 billion this year on gas compared to 2015.
“Gas prices are definitively a top reason why people are considering taking these trips,” said Carey. “They feel like they have a little bit more money in their pockets. When gas prices were over four dollars a gallon, a lot of people were scaling back on trips. Now that their half that, a lot of people are planning to get away.”
In addition to planned visits to national parks, general road trips and theme parks are among the most
popular types of vacations families are planning. Carey expects that Western New York will cash in on many planned jaunts.
“A lot of tourists will be heading to the (Niagara) Falls,” said Carey. “We’ll see a lot of people coming in, looking for road trip information and things like that. As they get to Buffalo, (they will) see the falls, and hopefully they’ll check out the improvements along the Buffalo waterfront. We see a lot of people trying to do that and then head over to the Finger Lakes as well. So there’s definitively a lot to do right in Western New York.”
Carey said favorable currency exchange rates should increase international trips. The strength of the American dollar makes traaveling to Canada more affordable.