Friday, May 11, 2001

Driving to Destin? Take more cash


Popular destinations $25 farther

By Tom O'Neill
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        They may whine about escalating gasoline prices every time they fill up, but Cincinnatians probably won't let them spoil their vacation plans.

        It's a matter of perspective: Even at $2 a gallon, it will cost only $25 more, on average, to go to and return from any of the five favorite Tristate vacation destinations.

        If last spring and summer are an indication, the impact of soaring fuel prices will affect plans “probably very little,” said Jennifer Ledonne, a spokeswoman for AAA Cincinnati. “It may keep some people closer to home, but most people just find a way to go.”

WHEN YOU GET THERE
   If you're planning to drive to AAA Cincinnati's five most requested destinations, here's what the average price of a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline was in each city Thursday, as reported by AAA's Daily Fuel Gauge Report.
   • Destin, Fla. (closest market in survey is Pensacola) — $1.61.
   • Gatlinburg, Tenn. (closest market in survey is Knoxville) — $1.56.
   • Hilton Head, S.C. (closest market in survey is Savannah) — $1.56.
   • Myrtle Beach, S.C. — $1.56.
   • Orlando — $1.61.
        Local gas prices fell Thursday to an average of $1.80 per gallon for regular unleaded, a dime more than the national average.

        That's 25 cents per gallon more than a month ago in Cincinnati, and 36 cents more than a year ago, according to AAA's Daily Fuel Gauge Report, a daily survey of more than 60,000 self-serve stations nationwide.

        Hhigher seasonal demand gives gas providers leverage to charge more. Mandates for cleaner-burning reformulated gas in some areas (like Boone, Campbell and Kenton counties) also mean higher costs for manufacturers that are passed along to consumers.

        Gas prices started to rise earlier than usual this year because spring supplies were much lower than average. This week's report from the American Petroleum Institute, an industry trade group, shows supplies are rising, but are still low.

        “I have to believe it's still cheaper than flying and renting a car,” said Gary Collins, 32, a Seton High School English teacher planning a family vacation to Colorado and Utah in July.

        “For us, we're going somewhere we want to go, and to get there, to see these things in America, this is the best way,” he said. “The other way to do it is a plane, then rent a car, then buy gas for the car. This way you're more in control.”

        Total miles: about 3,200 in 10 days, round-trip. They'll rent a minivan, which they expect to get about 20 miles per gallon, for a total of $320 for gas at $2 a gallon.

        “We try to make this as cheap as possible,” Mr. Collins said.

        As usual, he and his wife, Linda, have a TripTik Routing map, a AAA booklet with a series of local maps, in order, detailing the trip and its construction zones.

map
        Based on the 56,352 requests for TripTik Routing to the American Automobile Association (AAA) in Cincinnati since October 1999, the top five destinations from Cincinnati are: Destin, Fla., near Pensacola in the Panhandle; Myrtle Beach and Hilton Head in South Carolina; Gatlinburg, Tenn., and Walt Disney World in Orlando.

        “These are the same five we've seen year after year after year,” said Ms. Ledonne.

        Requests for TripTiks are down 13 percent from a year ago. But the reason may have more to do with Internet accessibility than gas prices.

        At a Shell station near Lawrenceburg, Cincinnati native Lindsey Latham bemoaned the current price of gas.

        “In the last three days I've put $15 worth of gas into my Geo Tracker,” she said. “It's ridiculous. I can't afford this. I'm moving to Tampa Sunday. My friend who lives there says that gas is only $1.50 a gallon.”

        Prices are significantly lower in Florida than they are in the Washington, D.C. area, too. Joyce Feldt, 54, of Arlington, Va., is a Department of Energy employee in Cincinnati this week for a conference.

        “It's usually $1.80,” she said Thursday. “I shop around. I came from the generation where you drive around.

        “But what choice do we have? That or stay home.”

       Chris Mayhew and Jenny Callison contributed to this report.
       



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