High gasoline prices help fuel 'stay-cations'

Are you taking the family on a road trip to Wally World this Labor Day weekend?

I'm not.

I'm going on one of those really cool and chic "stay-cations" that have grown in popularity this summer.

According to the American Automobile Association, the driver advocacy group, I won't be alone in staying home Labor Day weekend. In fact, this weekend is expected to mark the third consecutive travel period that has seen a year-to-year decline in vacationers, according to AAA.

The automobile club is projecting more than 34 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more this weekend. That's down almost 1 percent from last year.

Locally, it's even less.

Only 264,000 Nevadans are expected to travel by automobile this holiday weekend, said AAA Nevada spokesman Michael Geeser.

That's down 1.8 percent from 2007.

"Even with gas prices falling across the state, this has been a tough summer economically for many Nevada families," Geeser said.

Though gasoline prices in the Las Vegas Valley have dropped nearly 30 cents from a month ago, to an average of $3.67 for a gallon of regular petrol, according to VegasGasPrices.com, the problem is that the current price is still $1 more than it was at the end of last summer.

Folks are not only less likely to use automobiles to get to their vacation spot, they're even less likely to fly, AAA reported.

Nationally, about 3.96 million Americans intend to travel by plane this weekend, a 4.5 percent decrease from last year.

In Nevada, nearly 55,000 will fly out of town this weekend, down 3.4 percent from 2007, Geeser said.

It shouldn't be surprising considering air fares for this holiday weekend are 15 percent higher than last year, Geeser said. That doesn't include all the extra fees being included for checking baggage or purchasing a ginger ale on a flight.

Las Vegan Ken Cribari said the rising cost of airfare is keeping him grounded this year.

"We like to go to Hawaii," for vacation, the 83-year-old told me.

Cribari isn't getting lei-ed, in the Hawaiian sense, this year, though.

Instead, he plans on taking a road trip to Redding, Calif., in a vehicle that gets 26 miles per gallon.

"It's cheaper than flying," he joked.

Not everyone is lucky enough to have the choice to spend money on gasoline instead of airfare.

Vironica Banks, 20, said she and her boyfriend are forgoing an annual trip to see family.

They either go to Los Angeles or Reno over the Labor Day weekend, she said.

Banks drives a fuel-efficient Hyundai Accent, but said she's been priced out of a road trip by high gasoline prices.

"We'll probably just sleep in," on Labor Day, she said. "It's too hot in Las Vegas to do anything else."

Banks is disappointed, but not as much as her grandmother and great-grandmother, who celebrate birthdays on Aug. 30 and Aug. 31, respectively.

"They were pretty upset that I can't go," Banks said, even though she's the one missing out on some good barbecue and birthday cake.

As for my "stay-cation," I am actually working on Labor Day, which makes complete sense to me.

After all, isn't every day we work a "labor" day? Personally, I feel the holiday should be called "Off Day" or "Lay Around and Do Nothing Day" or maybe even "Epidural Day."

But I digress. Whether you're traveling or staying home, have a safe weekend.

If you have a question, tip or tirade, call the Road Warrior at 387-2904, or e-mail him at roadwarrior@reviewjournal.com or fmccabe@reviewjournal.com. Please include your phone number.