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Have Gas Prices Overtaken COVID as a Travel Hindrance?

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Posted on April 19, 2022

The average price of a gallon of regular gas in the U.S is now about $4.10, as of the time of this writing, according to AAA. It’s slightly down from last month’s peak of $4.27 but still significantly higher than the $2.87 Americans were paying on average last year. So, have gas prices overtaken COVID as a hindrance to travelers and, if so, how does this impact the timeshare industry?

People Travel Despite COVID

As gas prices rise, COVID cases are plummeting. According to the New York Times, daily cases have cratered from an average of over 800,000 on January 13 to 37,000 this past weekend. Hospitalizations and deaths have decreased at a similar rate, and with the fully vaccinated rate at 66 percent, Americans appear to have put the pandemic in the rearview mirror as they load up for their road trips.

Just look at this past Easter weekend for proof. The TSA reported over 2.2 million travelers passing through their checkpoints on Sunday, comparable to the pre-pandemic 2019 level of 2.35 million on the same day. 

people at airport

While Easter was on April 21 in 2019, you get the point that people are back on the move when it comes to travel. And that should increase even more after a federal judge voided the national mask mandate on Monday covering airplanes and other public transportation. TSA has already announced they will not enforce mask-wearing and all the major airlines have made them optional for domestic flights.

Keep in mind that these travel numbers are primarily a reflection of air travel, which is a good sign of a rebound, but does it carry over to road travel?

Hitting the Road

TripAdvisor released its Spring Travel Index in March and about 25 percent of Americans said they planned to travel over Easter weekend. Of those, a little less than half said they were travelling four hours or less from home by car or train. It’s too early to tell, but if these numbers are accurate, that’s close to 38 million travelers hitting the road last weekend.

car on highway

The best news for the timeshare industry is that the Index stated the three most popular vacation destinations for Easter were Orlando, Sedona and Las Vegas – all with a significant presence of timeshare resorts in those towns.

It doesn’t appear that either gas prices or COVID are stopping Americans from traveling, but gas prices are affecting specific travel plans.

Impact of Higher Gas Prices

AAA is telling people to not expect gas prices to significantly drop anytime soon, so they are advising travelers to plan with that in mind as they look forward to the summer. A recent AAA survey revealed that 58 percent of vacationers planning a summer trip would adjust their routes to compensate for higher gas prices.

Adjustments could mean vacationing closer to home or avoiding peak travel times, according to a USA Today article evaluating the current vacation climate based on the AAA survey. Most commentary includes reducing the accommodation costs, but the advantage of owning a timeshare is that the accommodation cost is prepaid.

From this anecdotal information, it does appear that gas prices have surpassed COVID as a deciding factor impacting travel plans.

In fact, AAA has announced today that booking data for travel products (flights, rental cars, etc.) for the Memorial Day holiday weekend are already up 122 percent over last year. People are not hesitant to take vacations, it’s just the destination and associated costs that are hanging in the balance.

Destinations Within The Four-Hour Drive Window

So, if vacationers are adjusting their plans to holiday closer to home, and the four-hour travel window has been identified earlier as a framework for planning trips, where are some of the popular timeshare towns where owners can look to use their timeshares?

Cape Cod, MA

beach on Cape Cod

Long known for its timeshare resorts, Cape Cod is within driving distance from two of the major cities in America, Boston and New York City. But you’ll definitely need to plan accordingly since several choke points along the way can nearly double the drive time if caught at the wrong time.

Atlantic City, NJ

Within the four-hour strike zone from major northeastern cities such as New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington, D.C., the popularity of this iconic holiday beach destination goes back to the 1880s.

Gatlinburg, TN

Great Smoky Mountains at Sunset

Inside a four-hour drive from six states in addition to the Tennessee locals, this gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is primed and ready for outdoor enthusiasts ready for a summer holiday.

Branson, MO

This self-described "Live Entertainment Capital of The World" is in a great spot, within 4-hour driving distance of Kansas City, St. Louis, Memphis, and less than five hours from Oklahoma City. Family-friendly shows, attractions and outdoor activities are just waiting.

Wisconsin Dells, WI

Billed as the “Waterpark Capital of the World”, this town in south-central Wisconsin is home to Noah's Ark Waterpark, a huge complex taking up 70 acres with over two dozen water-based rides and attractions. Within 4-hour range of Chicago, Milwaukee and Minneapolis.

Galveston, TX