CHARLOTTE – For the 1 million North Carolinians expected to travel by car this Memorial Day, gas prices are trending more than $1 higher than last year, when demand plummeted as much of the country was under stay-at-home orders.

Now, at $2.93, North Carolina gas price averages are 29 cents more than this time in May 2019.

“Many Carolinians are so eager to travel, we don’t expect higher gas prices to interfere with their plans,” said Tiffany Wright, spokesperson, AAA – The Auto Club Group in the Carolinas. “We typically find when pump prices increase, travelers look for more free activities or eat out less while on vacation, but still take their planned trips.”

North Carolina’s current gas price average ($2.93) saw a 20-cent increase on the week. This is 30 cents more expensive than a month ago and $1.22 more expensive than last year. Gas prices were expected to flirt with $3/gallon leading up to Memorial Day weekend, but last week’s shutdown of the Colonial Pipeline caused prices to spike weeks ahead of the holiday.

With the pipeline back in operation and supply being restored, gas prices will soon stabilize. AAA still urges drivers to fuel up responsibly. A surge in demand can exasperate supply problems. Consider combining trips, waiting until your tank reaches a half or quarter full before refueling.

Letting your vehicle’s fuel tank run dry is more than just an inconvenience, it could also lead to costly mechanical problems down the road. AAA advises to keep an eye on your fuel level and fill up before arriving to your final destination.

The AAA app can provide insight on gas prices and you can always call ahead to a station to confirm they are open for business.

Memorial Day travel volumes

AAA expects a significant rebound in the number of Americans planning to travel this Memorial Day holiday weekend. More than 37 million people are expected to travel 50 miles or more between May 27 and 31. That’s a 60% increase from last year, when only 23 million traveled, the lowest on record since AAA began recording in 2000.

In North Carolina, 1.1 million residents are forecast to take a trip during the holiday weekend. That’s a 61% increase from last year, when fewer than 700,000 residents traveled, due to the pandemic.

“A year’s worth of pent-up demand is being unleashed this summer, as Americans anticipate the kick-off to the season,” said Debbie Haas, vice president of travel for AAA – The Auto Club Group. “Travel bookings with AAA – The Auto Club Group have surged recently, setting the stage for what should be a busy holiday weekend and an exciting summer.”

“For many people, this will be their first summer vacation in two years, and things will look a little different,” Haas continued. “Because of the pandemic, many theme parks and hotels are running at reduced capacity, and some services are not currently available. Cruise lines are also accepting bookings, but their policies may vary based on whether you’re vaccinated. That’s why we encourage travelers to plan ahead and work with a trusted travel advisor, to ensure they get the best advice and value for their vacation.”

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