(LOS ANGELES, June 2, 2011) – Gas prices have been hovering in the minds of Southland consumers as they plan their summer vacations, and nearly two-thirds of those who will travel this summer say they are shifting their budgets in other areas to afford their trips, according to a new poll by the Automobile Club of Southern California.
The Auto Club’s third annual Summer Travel Poll shows a jump since the Spring Travel Poll in the number of people indicating that high gas prices are affecting their overall budgets – from 64 percent in March to 77 percent now. At the same time, however, some consumers’ tolerance for higher gas prices could be rising. In the spring, 33 percent of drivers said they would make major changes in the amount of gasoline they used once it reached $4 a gallon. In the summer poll, 27 percent said a $4 gas price had caused them to reduce their gas usage.
“The good news for travelers is that gas prices are now on the decline,” said Filomena Andre, the Auto Club’s vice president for travel products and services. “We expect that will bring more travelers into the last-minute market if they decided against making summer plans in April or May due to gas price uncertainty. Also, many travel providers are offering promotions to encourage last-minute summer travel since space is still available at several popular vacation destinations.”
The percentage of local residents who say they’ll possibly or definitely take a vacation this summer has dropped by six percent from the Auto Club’s summer 2010 poll. This year, 81 percent say they are considering or will take a summer vacation, compared to 87 percent last year.
Of those who say they will not vacation this summer, 60 percent cited higher gas prices as the main reason.
For those who do plan summer travel, 37 percent say they’ll take one trip, 40 percent will take two, 17 percent will take three and six percent will take four or more. Last year, 31 percent took one trip, 34 percent took two, 22 percent took three and 13 percent took four or more.
Most polled summer vacationers (61 percent) plan to take at least one summer trip to another U.S.state, while 54 percent will take at least one trip within California. The most popular destination states are Nevada and Arizona, while the most popular California destination cities are San Francisco and San Diego.
Sixty-five percent of those polled this year say they are cutting back on various discretionary budget expenses so they can afford to take at least one summer vacation. The most-cited budget cutbacks included:
- Dining at restaurants (44 percent)
- Buying new clothes or shoes (32 percent)
- Gasoline usage (31 percent)
- Personal services such as manicures or massages (27 percent)
- Weekend getaways/day trips (24 percent)
- Movies or concerts (24 percent)
- New electronics (20 percent)
More travelers are also using their cell phones to search for discounts they can use on their trip. Twenty-three percent said they now use smartphone discount apps such as the AAA Discounts app for their travel, compared to 10 percent last summer.
Among the 77 percent of Southern Californians who said gas prices have impacted their overall budgets, the vast majority of them (85 percent) say they have cut back on unnecessary driving to cope with the higher prices.
Other highlights from the poll:
- As a further indicator that the recession may be lifting, fewer Southern Californians are planning to pinch pennies by choosing less expensive summer entertainment activities (34 percent compared to 43 percent in 2010). Also, 29 percent of those polled say they don’t plan to make any cost-saving changes to their summer plans, compared to 22 percent last year.
- Top activities for this year’s summer vacations include visiting family (49 percent), sightseeing (49 percent), visiting friends (37 percent), visiting attractions (32 percent), pursuing a hobby or sport (26 percent), going to a gambling destination (22 percent) and spa or relaxation (20 percent).
- 52 percent of summer travelers plan to spend a total of $1,500 or less on all their summer trips.
- For 50 percent of travelers, their longest summer trip will last from four to seven days, and for 25 percent, it will last eight to 14 days.
- For their longest trip of the summer, 45 percent will drive to their destination while 39 percent will fly.
- 47 percent of travelers will stay in a hotel on their longest summer trip, and 22 percent will stay with family.
The Auto Club 2011 Summer Travel Poll was administered by the Auto Club Marketing & Brand Research Department, taken by 656 Auto Club of Southern California members between May 2 and May 16 and has a +/- margin of error of 3.7 percent.