A driven Fourth

Gas prices not sidelining Floridians


Published: Thursday, July 1, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, July 1, 2004 at 1:16 a.m.
Although gas prices are on average 44 cents per gallon higher than a year ago, more Floridians are expected to take to the roads this Fourth of July holiday weekend, according to AAA.
Nearly 2 million Floridians will travel more than 50 miles from home by car, truck or RV - a 5 percent increase from last year. Nationally, 39 million Americans - about 4 percent more than last year - will travel this weekend, and most will be driving.
The combination of a three-day weekend and high consumer confidence is adding more drivers to the road this Fourth, said Gregg Laskoski, spokesman at AAA Auto Club South in Tampa.
The Independence Day weekend is usually the heaviest-traveled time of the summer. And a national average of $1.925 per gallon of unleaded isn't stopping Americans from having fun, Laskoski said.
"We're finding that gas prices are having almost no effect on the leisure travel intentions of Americans," he said.
The average U.S. family will spend about $77 on gas during its longest driving vacation this summer, according to AAA. That's about $18 more than a year ago.
And while gas prices will be high this weekend, they're still about 10 cents less per gallon than they were during the Memorial Day weekend.
Travelers will find other ways to cut costs, Laskoski said.
Skipping the hotel is one way to save money. More than one-third of those traveling this weekend will stay with friends and family.
And while most vacationers are driving to their destinations, some are cruising or flying to exotic locations, said Bob Todd, owner and manager of World Class Travel in Gainesville.
Todd has several clients taking a cruise around Alaska next week. Others are going to Peru, he said. Some have booked luxury accommodations in Peru, while others are hiking the Inca trail, he said.
"You can either go in high style or with a budget," he said. "This is high season for Peru. It's their wintertime and especially in the mountains, it can be cool."
But cool is not what travelers in Florida will find.
Anyone who stays in North Central Florida can expect a 40 percent chance of rain this weekend, with highs in the low 90s and lows in the low 70s, according to the National Weather Service.
Beachgoers can expect a similar chance of weekend rain and highs of about 89 in St. Augustine and 91 in St. Petersburg.
Vacationers will need to log a lot of miles to get much relief.
In New York City, temperatures will hover around 80 this weekend, with a 30 percent chance of rain. Campers at Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming will get a good dose of chilly weather, with highs of 69 and lows around 41 this weekend.
Key West will be about twice as warm at night, with lows of 80 and highs of 90.
And because there will be more people on the roads, officials recommend getting an early start and taking breaks when needed.
"Let someone else take the wheel every couple of hours," Laskoski said. "Pull in some place to get a good night's sleep and a fresh start in the morning rather than to try and push it. The worst thing you can do is drive at a time your body is accustomed to sleeping."
Authorities will be watching the roads to make sure people are driving safely.
The Florida Highway Patrol is closing its office operations this weekend and sending sworn administrative employees out on the roads.
They also will put extra overtime employees out to watch for drunken drivers.
The Alachua County Sheriff's Office and the Gainesville Police Department also will have extra officers and deputies on the roads.
Kathy Ciotola can be reached at 338-3109 or ciotolk@gvillesun.com.

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