Gas Prices Altering Vacation Plans for Many Americans

by Frank Newport

A sizable percentage are canceling their summer trips altogether

PRINCETON, NJ -- A recent USA Today/Gallup poll finds 36% of Americans reporting that they are changing their summer vacation plans as a result of the rise in gas prices, significantly more than the 21% who say they are sticking to their plans. Forty-one percent say they did not plan on traveling much during the summer, and thus are relatively unaffected by the price of gas.

These results show that a majority of the 57% of Americans who had travel plans this summer say they are changing their plans because of gas prices. The poll was conducted May 2-4, and since then, gas prices have continued to rise, so it's possible an even higher percentage of Americans have decided to alter their plans since then.

Although gas prices are now the highest in U.S. history, a comparison of reactions to this question today and in June 2006 shows that the current results are somewhat -- but not dramatically -- more negative than they were two years ago. In 2006, 33% of Americans said they were changing their plans, while 28% said they were not. The current comparable numbers, as noted, are 36% and 21%, respectively. Then, as now, a majority of those who had plans to travel said they were changing them because of the price of gas.

What exactly are those who are changing their plans doing to ameliorate the price of gas? An open-ended question included in the poll asked just that question, with the accompanying results.

These results suggest somewhat more draconian responses to gas prices than was the case in June 2006. Over a third of those who are changing their plans this summer, 37%, say they are canceling their vacation plans altogether, compared to 26% two years ago. Another 24% this year say they are changing their destination in order to make the trip shorter, while 20% say they are cutting down on the number of trips they are taking. Two years ago, those changing their plans were most likely to mention that they were cutting down on the number of trips they would be taking.

Implications

About 4 out of 10 Americans apparently will not be affected by rising gas prices this summer as far as their vacations are concerned because they did not plan on traveling much to begin with. But among those who did plan on traveling, a majority say they will be changing their plans, and over a third of that group say they will be canceling their vacation plans altogether.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,017 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted May 2-4, 2008. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on land-line telephones (for respondents with a land-line telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell-phone only).

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

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