Thursday, July 24, 2014

Despite prices at the pump, many Utahns will hit the road this weekend

By Whitney Evans, Deseret News

Published: Wed, May 21 6:25 p.m. MDT

 Travelers come and go Monday, May 19, 2014, at the Salt Lake City International Airport.

Travelers come and go Monday, May 19, 2014, at the Salt Lake City International Airport.

(Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — A record number of residents in the Mountain West are expected to kick off the travel season by vacationing this weekend, despite rising gas and airfare prices.

With a baby on the way for Taylor and Rochelle Oborn and both working long hours, the Draper couple plans to visit family in St. George.

"We just want to be able to get her away and be able to kind of relax and get away from the grind a little bit," Taylor Oborn said. "Even if we just sit by the pool all day, that sounds great."

They are among the 2.7 million residents in the Mountain West who are expected to travel 50 or more miles during the holiday weekend, according to the AAA Travel Memorial Day Travel Forecast. The number of those expected to travel is up 0.5 percent from the same time period last year.

The increase in travel is in spite of a 28-cent jump in gas prices between April and May — from an average of $3.32 to $3.60 per gallon — and a 6 percent increase in airfare since the same period last year, from an average of $215 round trip to $227 for the 40 most-traveled routes in the United States, according to AAA.

Although prices will likely continue to rise throughout the summer, the upward turn in the economy is a sign that travel will also continue to climb.

“From experience, we know that when the economy improves then you see travel improve because it’s completely discretionary,” said Rolayne Fairclough, AAA Utah spokeswoman.

Here are a few things to keep in mind as your family prepares to head out for the holiday weekend.

Gas prices

Gas costs about 8 cents more per gallon on average in Utah than it did a year ago, according to the AAA Daily Fuel Gauge Report. Travelers can expect an additional spike as holiday weekends approach, according to Fairclough. To get ahead of high gas prices, she suggests that those with boats, motorbikes or recreational vehicles fill up their tanks a week before holidays hit.

Utah national parks

Those traveling to Utah's national parks should "make sure that they have their lodging figured out" ahead of time because the warm weather attracts large crowds, said Dave Williams, Utah Office of Tourism's associate managing director.

He suggested hiking early in the morning or near dusk for the best photography opportunities and to avoid the masses.

People heading outdoors should pay attention to the weather, follow park guidelines and take plenty of water and sunscreen along, Williams said.

He recommends Capitol Reef and Canyonlands national parks or one of Utah's state parks for those looking for less-crowded recreation spots.

Utah state parks

Some of the campsites for Utah's state parks are filling up quickly, including Wasatch Mountain, Hyrum, Huntington, Quail Creek and Coral Pink Sand Dunes.

"If these are your favorite state parks, you may want to jump on the phone or on the Web to make that reservation," said Eugene Swalberg, Utah State Parks spokesman.

Undeveloped campgrounds are available at Yuba, Sand Hollow and Starvation state parks. With these campgrounds, patrons can call ahead to ensure they will have a spot, but they will not be able to specify where that spot is located.

State parks will be adding new features through the summer, including a zip line at Yuba, an archery course at Starvation State Park and a paddle festival at Red Fleet State Park.

For reservations, call 1-800-322-3700 or go online to stateparks.utah.gov.

Flights

A little more than 232,000 Mountain West residents are expected to fly to their destinations during this holiday weekend, a 1 percent bump from last year.

An increase in flight rates is "not keeping people from going" to places like Italy, France, London and Ireland, according to Kathy Hirst, manager of Black Pearl Luxury Services, a division of Morris Murdock. In fact, the agency has seen about a 20 percent increase in people booking international flights.

"We're really finding a lot of sold-out situations," she said.

Because of the influx of travelers, flights are filling up more quickly, which has reduced the need for airlines to offer last-minute deals, according to Hirst. This means those looking to fly may get the best rates by planning ahead.

Recreational vehicles

Shawn and Joy Kirk spent a recent afternoon at Motor Sportsland, 4001 S. State, with their 2-year-old son Abel. Their desire for mobility and travel led them to shop for a recreational vehicle.

"We're just looking for something that's a good in-between place," Joy Kirk said.

The couple recently put their house on the market and will spend the summer traveling with their children while they figure out where they want to put down roots.

They were among those looking for "an inexpensive and very easy way to spend time with your family and travel" who have kept workers at Motor Sportsland busy this week, said general manager Daiman Wells.

Email: wevans@deseretnews.com

Twitter: whitevs7

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