Monday, March 04, 2024

200K Idahoans ready to roll

| May 26, 2021 1:00 AM

COEUR d'ALENE — The unofficial kick-off to the summer travel season is just around the corner, but with surging demand for fuel, rental cars, airfare, and hotel rooms, Memorial Day travelers should plan on paying more for the privilege.

The U.S. average price for regular was $3.04 on Tuesday, which is the same as a week ago and 15 cents more than a month ago. Idaho’s average price is $3.24, which is a penny more than a week ago and 12 cents more than a month ago. Idaho currently ranks 8th in the country for most expensive fuel.

Coeur d'Alene prices are now averaging more than $3 a gallon. Many stations are still in the $2.90s.

AAA predicts that 37 million Americans will travel this Memorial Day weekend, including 202,000 Idahoans. The 60 percent increase over 2020 is putting significant upward pressure on gas prices, and holiday travelers are expected to pay the most to fill up since 2014.

“Everything is going to be more expensive this year, as many people finally have the opportunity to re-connect with family members or visit a beloved travel destination. But we don’t believe that higher prices will change anyone’s mind about taking a trip,” says AAA Idaho spokesman Matthew Conde. “People will simply make other adjustments to their budget in order to get some long-awaited rest and relaxation.”

According to the AAA Leisure Travel Index, daily rental car rates have doubled compared to last Memorial Day at an average price of $134. A semiconductor shortage has impacted automobile production, and, in turn, rental car inventory and availability in some markets.

Average airfares are up 14 percent over last Memorial Day, and mid-range hotel room rates have increased between 29 and 34 percent, with average nightly rates of $140 for a AAA Two-Diamond property and $181 for a AAA Three-Diamond property.

“If you decide to be spontaneous and take a last-minute vacation without making any reservations, you could be in for some serious disappointment, not just now but throughout the summer,” Conde said. “Please do your homework to pick out a destination or situation that’s right for you, then make your travel arrangements as soon as possible.”

In addition to state and national parks, Idahoans are likely to visit warm-weather destinations like Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix, Las Vegas, and Orlando over the holiday. Gas prices are likely to be more expensive near major tourist attractions like mountains, beaches, and parks.

AAA reminds travelers to pack masks, hand sanitizer, and disinfectant wipes. While some states and cities have or are about to lift mask regulations, some businesses and destinations may have their own requirements. If you’re traveling by plane or staying in a hotel, consider wiping down high-touch surfaces to reduce the spread of sickness.

Crude Oil Dynamics

The price of West Texas Intermediate crude oil currently sits at $66 per barrel, which is four dollars more than a month ago. Prices have fluctuated in recent days to as low as $62 per barrel, as optimism grows and wanes with global COVID-19 case counts and vaccine rollouts. The market continues to be uncertain about future oil and gas demand in some parts of the world.

AAA to the rescue

Over the Memorial Day holiday, AAA will respond to 388,000 calls for roadside service nationwide, with about 720 calls here in Idaho. Dead batteries, vehicle lockouts, and flat tires will be some of the most common issues. It’s best to complete a pre-trip vehicle inspection before hitting the road.

Emergency kits can keep travelers safe and comfortable until help arrives. AAA encourages motorists to replace old batteries in flashlights, swap out expired first aid materials, and take along snacks, water, and extra clothing.

Here’s a current snapshot of Idaho gas prices as of Tuesday.

Boise, $3.40; Franklin, $3.36, Idaho Falls, $3.09 and Lewiston, $3.06.