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Don't Let Stupidly High Gasoline Prices Affect Your Summer Travel

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By Jeff Lenard, NACS

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

The NACS reported that even though gas prices are up, they’re only a fraction of the cost of a road trip vacation. And yes, you should take one!

In mid-February, gas prices were roughly $1 higher per gallon than a year ago. The average vehicle consumes about 500 gallons annually, so that’s another $500 in unwanted expenses. Believe it or not, it’s not too soon for people planning a summertime road trip to ask whether they should cancel their plans because of gas prices. So, should they?

The short answer is no—gas prices are only a fraction of the cost of a vacation. Let’s look at some of the math.

If your vehicle gets 25 miles per gallon, it will cost you about $4 more for every 100 miles you travel, and that’s factoring the $1 per gallon increase in gas mentioned above. If you’re taking a 600-mile road trip, it will cost you about $24 more in fuel compared to last year, which is still less than the cost of one checked bag if you were flying.

That’s not to diminish concerns about gas prices. More than two-thirds of all American drivers (68%) told us four years ago that they were planning a road trip, and nearly half (43%) said high gas prices might curtail the amount of road trips they take. And certainly, there are concerns about oil prices ratcheting higher based on global politics.

On the other hand, a road trip might just be what we all need after the past two years. While pretty much everyone has a favorite vacation memory, we also know that there can be frustrating moments, even arguments. What’s the biggest cause of tension according to the NACS consumer survey? Yep, you guessed it: the kids, either fighting with each other or fidgeting and whining that all-too-familiar refrain, “Are we there yet?”

Also high on the list of what families argue about is where to stop for a break. The answer? Stop at a convenience store. You can quickly fuel up, use the restroom (about 1 in 7 people who buy gas and go inside the store use the restroom) and pick up great food at a good price, which can also offset those higher gas prices.

Of course, I’m biased toward convenience stores and can rave about the great food that we’ve showcased in Ideas 2 Go videos. And others agree with me.

Let’s start with Al Hebert, the “Gas Station Gourmet,” who writes a monthly column in NACS Magazine and has visited countless convenience stores and rural gas stations with delicious food.

Recently I discovered Stafford Shurden, a farmer and deli market owner with roughly 1,000 subscribers to his “Gas Station Tailgate Review” channel on YouTube. His concept is simple: He buys a meal at the gas station and uses his truck’s flatbed as a dinner table and recording studio to talk about the food. I’d love to take a week or two just to hit all the places he’s found, like great fried chicken within a few hours of his hometown of Drew, Mississippi, which is also the hometown of Archie Manning.

And, of course, the Food Network series “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” has featured numerous gas stations—some of which we also visited for Ideas 2 Go, like Chef Point Cafe in Watauga, Texas, where we had delicious lobster bisque, pork tenderloin and bread pudding.

No one can accurately predict where gas prices will go over the next few months, even though that doesn’t stop them from trying. Oil prices are tied to geopolitical events, and things appear rocky right now, which will affect the price per gallon that we pay at the pump. Hopefully concerns over higher gas prices won’t scuttle your plans. And maybe that stop at the local convenience store is a hidden gem that will keep the kids talking about that fun stop instead of complaining about who’s encroaching on their “side” of the car.

Do you have great memories of road trips that include a stop for c-store food or a recommendation to check out? Shoot me a line. I know I’ll be hitting the road this summer visiting plenty of convenience stores.