Road trip plans foiled by rising gas prices

Just as spring and summer road trip plans are being made, gas prices are on the rise. That’s no big news, as we reported the same thing about this time last year. This year, though, gas prices are beginning their annual climb earlier than ever with potentially bad news on the horizon for road trippers making plans right now.

In an interview with the Buffalo News, Patrick DeHaan, a senior petroleum analyst for, said, “it’s pretty rough. One word can sum it up: ‘ouch.’ It’s going to be a nasty year for gas prices.”

GasBuddy reports gas prices around the United States, assesses what drives the price of fuel, and offers helpful tips on getting the best fuel economy. This week, Gas Buddy reports a national average of $3.63 per gallon of regular gas, with an average of $3.92 and a high of $4.19 in New York City. In Santa Barbara, California, the situation is worse with an average of $4.40, peaking to $4.79 at the highest station, well before road trip season gets going in full stride. The early rise in gas prices has motorists wondering why.

“This year, the price increases are really based on what’s happening in the world oil market, the crude market,” said Wally Smith, a vice president with AAA, explaining to the Buffalo News, “You get around $4, people really start adjusting driving behaviors.”

So what can we do to prepare for $5.00 per gallon gas?

Moneycrashers, an online source dedicated to developing a community of people who try to make financially sound decisions, suggests that those thinking about buying a car might consider a more fuel-efficient vehicle. At $3.00/gal the added expense of a green car makes owning one more for super eco-aware drivers. At $5.00/gal, the math works.

But saving in other areas to offset the price of fuel, often areas directly affected by the price of fuel itself, can help too. Homes heated by fuel oil will see an increase in costs so finding alternative ways to heat your home is a good idea.

Food will go up in price so we can save money by starting a home garden. Moneycrashers even suggests keeping chickens, starting a beehive, growing your own sprouts, or learning how to forage for nuts.

If that sounds a bit extreme, consider other methods to save on food like buying products in bulk, cooking more at home, and eating out less.

“Food prices really surged at the end of 2011, which isn’t good news to consumers,” said USDA food economist Richard Volpe, in Business Week. “Costs this year will rise as much as 4.5 percent for meat products and baked goods.”

All good reasons why cutting back in areas related and affected by rising fuel prices can leave room in the budget for a decent road trip. Online tools to help manage expenses and predict the price of a road trip are also available.

The website Cost2Drive built a galculator, a fun and easy tool to help travelers budget for road trips, because, as they put it, “the carefree days of jumping in the car with no regard to costs are long gone.”The easy-to-use online tool calculates the price of gas from point A to point B based on current gas prices along the way and even throws in carbon footprint data to consider.

So while we may not be able to do anything about the price of gas, we can control expenses in other areas, leaving room for road trip dreams to blossom.

Flickr photo by photopaige