You don't have to go far these days to find a news report featuring someone thinking twice about hitting the open road this summer due to price of gas. As a veteran of many road trips either as a kid or with my kids, those stories make me a little sad.
Yes, gas prices are about 20% higher than they were this time last year. But is that worth missing out on the roadside restaurants where the placemat doubles as the menu? Or the highway motels that still proudly boast "Colour TV and Air Conditioning"? Or oversized roadside attractions? Before you put the Thule in the garage, let me share some thoughts on how to keep up with the Griswolds this summer.
If you recognized the car in the picture as the "Family Truckster", or more officially, an '83 "WagonQueen Family Truckster", you've likely been on a road trip or two. Only those who have braved the open road with the family can fully appreciate the 1983 movie Vacation, where the 8-headlighted wonder stylishly trucked the Griswald family from Chicago to L.A.
Growing up, our family truckster was a brown van big enough for us to sleep in. It smelled funny, rattled incessantly and had matching curtains made by my Mom, but it was our ticket to freedom and the many interesting towns and villages that dotted the map between the major cities. My brother, sister and I would play, read and fight in the back (out of harm's way) and put on puppet shows for the poor drivers stuck behind us on the long, winding, single-lane stretches of the Trans-Canada Highway. When we stopped for food, gas or to let the line of impatient drivers finally pass us, we always stepped out into a new small town with lots of charm. Old-fashioned diners, oversized tributes to Geese and Moose and really friendly people. To this day, I can't drive through White River, Ontario without stopping at the A&W. It's located next to the large statue of Winnie-the-Pooh, who was apparently born there before heading overseas for fame and fortune.
So what are people planning to do this year?
According to the Hotel Association of Canada, 70 per cent of Canadians said they planned to take a domestic trip some time in 2008, down from 78 per cent in last year´s survey. Major reasons for the decline included "financial concerns" and "higher gas/energy prices."
In the US, the Travel Industry Association's annual survey showed a 1% drop in the number of Americans planning summer vacations this year over last. The summer vacation is apparently still a must, with historical significance...but drivers stateside will likely be looking to find savings in other areas.
Of the 41 percent of American adults who said their plans would change if gas prices rise even higher, the greatest percentage (38 percent) said they would just drive a shorter distance. Others said they'd take fewer trips and spend less on souvenirs, meals, shopping and hotels.
Other road-trip savings tips include:
- Stay close to home. People who live near popular tourist attractions often drive past them.
- Look for online deals and offers. Our partnership with itravel2000 lets you earn Petro-Points on purchases like hotels and other travel needs.
- Look for hotels that offer free breakfast or book a place with a kitchenette so that you can make some of your own meals.
- Shorten vacations by a day. One less day could pay for any increase in fuel costs
- Drive the speed limit
- Tune-up your family truckster and view other fuel efficiency tips from Pump Talk before heading out.
For us, we'll be taking the kids on a shorter trip this year. Not because of the fuel cost, but because last year we drove from Toronto to Thunder Bay (2 long days) and back (2 longer days) and doing that again may kill even my enthusiasm for the open road. Although my son losing his first tooth just outside Wawa, Ontario and the look on this face the next morning when he realized the tooth fairy had indeed found the tooth under his pillow in our hotel room in Sault Ste. Marie is an experience we'll never forget.
So it looks like, with a few modifications, the family road trip is more or less safe for another year. I hope so. Not only are there many small, interesting places across this country that are worth exploring, there is likely an extended puppet show going on somewhere along the Trans Canada with your name on it. Get ready to wave. Those kids will remember it for a lifetime.
Photo Credit: AdamL212