Pricey Gas or No, Californians Get Out of Town

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Yikes! Photo by Ben Trefny.

(San Francisco – Casey Miner, KALW News) Gas prices are up! Or no, wait, maybe they’re down. Either way, a highly unscientific round of calls by TN suggests that Californians are finding ways to get out of town this Memorial Day weekend.

A recent survey by AAA found that while travel numbers aren’t exactly flying off the charts this year, neither are they declining. The survey predicts that just over four million Californians will travel 50 miles or more, a very slight increase over last year. What's more, nearly all of them will drive. AAA spokeswoman Cynthia Harris said the numbers may reflect people’s desire to go on vacation no matter what: about a third of travelers are expected to stay with family and friends rather than in hotels.

In Lake Tahoe, one of the most popular Bay Area vacation destinations, hotel owners and sales managers said they had already had busy springs, and were expecting strong summers. “Higher gas prices and more expensive airline fares can actually benefit Lake Tahoe in some case because we have a strong drive market from the Bay Area,” said Marc Sapoznik, a representative of Tahoe’s Resort at Squaw Creek. While people may not go too far from home, they are not willing to give up the summer vacation entirely.”

Sapoznik also said that the economic downturn had led people to book shorter stays, say, just a weekend. But this summer, vacations were lengthening: back up to four days or more. What’s more, he said his resort has seen an uptick in last-minute booking – though whether that’s a sign of better cash flow or just sheer stir-craziness is impossible to say.

Barb Cohen, owner of the Shore House B&B in North Lake Tahoe, said many of her guests stopped in on longer loops. “They start out either in Vegas or San Francisco, do a loop here to Tahoe, then go to Yosemite, Monterey, the Grand Canyon, something like that,” she said. “I haven’t noticed people saying no, we’re not doing that because of the gas prices.”

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