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Americans WILL road-trip in 2022

by SHOLEH PATRICK
| July 12, 2022 1:00 AM

High gas prices? Who cares.

Crazy hotel costs? Whatever.

Credit card debt and inflation? Stop being such a downer.

Nothing, it seems, is going to keep the average American from following through on summer road trip plans according to a slew of surveys. A June AutoNation survey of 2,000 adults found 80% of Americans plan a 2022 summer road trip. Another one by CarTrawler found 73% feel “positive” about summer travel (on a side note, 73% also plan to spend more for an eco-friendly rental car, and 52% look for carbon-neutral airline pledges).

SmarTours tour operator data, cited by USA Today, indicate two-thirds of Americans plan summer travel. According to U.S. Bureau of Transportation 2017 data, in an average year 9 out of 10 summer trips are in personal vehicles. This summer’s on track to meet or exceed that.

This, despite gas reaching record national highs. The Washington Post recently reported hotel costs have increased an average 40%. We just drove 7,000 miles (two trips) in less than a month, paying anywhere from $4.13 (Louisiana) to more than $5 (Idaho) for gas, and $79 (Tucumcari, N.M.) to $250 (Missoula) for a basic hotel room.

As the old song goes, nothing’s gonna stop us now. As reported by USA Today, a “defiant 41% of Americans in a poll by World Nomads say nothing will stop them from going (on a 2022 road trip). Not war, not inflation, not COVID-19. Nothing.”

Didn’t stop us either, but fair warning: Travel is different now. Beyond widely varying prices, we had to learn to be flexible, mostly because of labor issues. Restaurants and stores may be closed during business hours. Help is scarcer. Hotel desks often unmanned. Free breakfast was nonexistent one morning; others offered it only in-room. One hotel was out of coffee entirely.

So we learned to be prepared. Stocked the car with meal alternatives. Knew the budget would have to change. Service was often slow, so we learned to chill. Told hotels (not the 800 number) when we’d arrive so someone would be there for check in. Took a breath and didn’t get cranky.

Relatives’ flights were canceled recently, another theme we keep hearing repeated. Pilot shortage.

2022 travel tips offered by travel sites include more variations on the modified expectations theme. If flying, have alternative itineraries ready, and schedule a day in advance of desired arrival, just in case you don’t get there when planned (and try Wednesday bookings for lower prices). In case you get stuck at an airport at night, have food with you and activities for kids. Maybe scope out some hotels. Expect delays and be delighted if they don’t happen.

It’s a new world.

Book things early if you can, and communicate more where possible. Understand employees who show up are now often doing more than one job, because of low staffing levels, so things will take longer and mistakes will be made.

However you travel, take cash, soften expectations, and be prepared for unplanned costs and delays. Road trips aren’t supposed to be rushed anyway, right? Take in the scenery and live for the adventure.

During such unplanned experiences we had some good conversations with nice people, laughed a little, learned more about the towns we were driving through, and had the hands-down best barbecue ever — and the trip’s friendliest employees — in Alexandria, La.

Did I mention the Tucumcari, N.M., sunrise? Wow.

2022 seems to be the stay-chill-in-the-moment travel year. We got this, and it’s still fun.

• • •

Sholeh Patrick is a columnist for the Hagadone News Network who’s glad to stay put for a while. Email Sholeh@cdapress.com.

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