Labor Day road trips
Nationally, the upcoming Labor Day weekend is expected to be the cheapest since 2010 with the highest volume of travel since 2008. About 1.44 million Ohioans are expected to travel 50 miles or more from home, part of about 34.7 million nationally.
Gas prices are expected to stay lower than last year’s end-of-summer holiday weekend despite the chance of an upcoming spike, and travel experts are optimistic about the weekend as families venture away from home one last time before settling into school schedules and cooler temperatures into fall.
Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy.com, said predicting gas prices, especially in the Great Lakes states where cycles are so much more erratic, can be tough.
“Prices move down much faster in Ohio because it’s a very competitive market, and stations are engaging in a price war every day,” he said.
But generally, gas prices in Ohio and the surrounding area have been fairly low this summer, and average gas prices are about 13 cents lower than they were at the same time last year.
“It’s not going to be that bad this year,” DeHaan said. “Nationally, it’ll the cheapest Labor Day since 2010, so there’s a lot of optimism.”
DeHaan said in 2014, gas has spiked nationally 23 times, but each spike has been lower than in previous years.
“It’s like a roller coaster, only all of the hills are far less big,” he said.
One of the biggest myths GasBuddy experts try to dispel is the panic over the holidays affecting gas prices.
“There’s this huge conspiracy about holidays, but if you compare Christmas to the Fourth of July, you’ll see Christmas is a lot cheaper,” he said. “It all has to do with supply and demand.”
DeHaan explained that spikes occur about every seven to 10 days, and though there is a chance to see a spike going into the weekend, it will most likely be only about nine or 10 cents.
“We’re planning on going up to a water park in the Columbus area for the holiday with the kids, and we’ll use a whole tank of gas to get there,” said Shane Kuchler, 41, of Waterford. “And it costs about $63 for me to fill up.”
Not only is the U.S. closing in on becoming the leading worldwide oil producer, DeHaan said, but now that students are going back to school, people are not on the roads as much, and beginning Sept. 15, stations will no longer have to use EPA-required summer gas, meaning prices to purchase will go down.
Some 1.44 million Ohioans will use all forms of transportation to travel Labor Day weekend, and though the holiday is always a big time for travel, this year will be even busier than normal.
“Labor Day is always busy but we have seen a year over year increase in Labor Day travel,” said Teresa Thomas, public relations director for AAA East Central. “It’s the highest volume since 2008.”
AAA predicted that a recovering economy and better gas prices could speak to the spike in travelers.
“Most of the kids are back to school, but we’re still seeing people squeeze in those last-minute summer trips,” she said.
Marietta resident Mike Norton, 50, said he just took his family out west toward Arkansas, and said sometimes it just seems cheaper to travel on “off” weekends rather than on holidays.
“It depends where you are when you have to get gas,” he said. “If you go down near Arkansas and Missouri, the gas is cheaper, so you can pick where you want to fill up.”
Automobile travel is supposed to see a nearly 1 percent increase this year, while air travel is expected to see about a 2.1 percent increase for East North Central travelers, which includes Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois and Wisconsin.
Weather throughout the valley is expected to be fairly warm for the weekend, with a few chances of thunderstorms, according to the National Weather Service.
“We’re not seeing anything dramatic for the weekend,” said Julia Rutherford, a meteorologist for the NWS office in Charleston. “It’ll be still reasonably warm throughout the weekend.”
Rutherford said temperature highs will stay in the mid to high-80s all weekend, with thunderstorm chances fluctuating between about 30 to 40 percent throughout the weekend, with a 40 to 50 percent chance of rain Sunday and about a 30 percent chance on Labor Day.