High gas prices not stopping summer travel, but poll shows many people are staying closer

·4 min read

The average gas price in Missouri was $4.92 as of Friday. In Boone County, the average price was $4.85. With these prices roughly $2 more than a year ago, one would think there would be a travel deterrent.

That isn't necessarily the case, according to AAA Missouri.

"All of our available data suggests higher gas prices and higher inflation cost have not deterred folks from traveling in general this summer," wrote Nick Chabarria, AAA spokesperson, in an email to the Tribune. "In fact, AAA Missouri travel bookings have seen substantial increases year-over-year and month to month."

Comparing the months of May and June (as of Thursday), there has been a 19% increase in travel bookings through AAA travel.

This June has brought a 234% increase in bookings over the same month last year.

Even though there is increased travel compared to last year, people often are not traveling as far, according to FamilyDestinationsGuide.com.

A survey of slightly more than 3,000 road trippers found the distance they are willing to travel is about half of what they used to — from 568 miles to 320 miles round trip. This is about the distance of traveling to Kansas City, Kansas, and back.

Seventy-five percent of respondents said "they’re more worried about high inflation costs and prices than they are about (COVID-19)," noting they are more likely to seek out free activities or even things to do at their hotel.

"It’s a harsh reality that overall travel costs have heightened due to soaring inflation rates and gas costs," said Rose Ackermann with Family Destinations Guide.

Families should take advantage of specials, discounts and coupons to save money where possible on trips, Ackermann said.

Close to home

For those not wanting to travel, there are places to explore within the City of Columbia that you may never have checked out, and even more when factoring in the rest of Boone County, says the Columbia Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Some popular excursions into neighboring counties include Arrow Rock and Boonville, according to the bureau visitors guide.

Arrow Rock features historic buildings and is a designated National Historic Landmark. Guests can take in a show at the Arrow Rock Lyceum Theater, currently featuring "Jersey Boys" through July 3. Boonville is home to Warm Springs Ranch, which houses some of the Budweiser Clydesdales. The ranch is open to guests April through October.

Columbia has more than 35 pieces of public art, the bureau said. A person can plan out their own art tour through the Otocast app.

For those seeking city history, the bureau recommends the African American Heritage Trail, a two-mile journey with historic markers throughout the downtown area.

For the outdoors-inclined, there is Rock Bridge Memorial State Park, with a variety of hiking opportunities, as well as the MKT Trail or the nearby Katy Trail.

Getting away, but staying local

There are options for Columbia residents to get away, while staying fairly local. This can include bed and breakfasts in Rocheport, such as School House Bed & Breakfast or Amber House Bed & Breakfast.

Other options can be found through Airbnb and Vrbo. One nearby option is Pretty Lake Guest House, which is just a 15-minute drive from Columbia off South Rangeline Road and about 2 miles north of the Columbia Regional Airport.

While Pretty Lake owner Abby Arauz has not seen an increase in interest in staycations from those looking to stay local because of gas prices, she is hearing from more businesses seeking local team and company retreats.

"We neighbor Mark Twain National Forest and have miles of hiking and mountain bike trails, a campground, 30 acres of manicured forest and a five-acre lake fully stocked with game fish that guests have all to themselves," Arauz wrote in an email to the Tribune. "The cabin rental includes a kayak, stand-up paddle boards and an aluminum bass boat.

"Ultimately our goal is for every guest to have a fun and relaxing time in nature and on the water."

One other amenity that makes Pretty Lake stand out is its music and recording studio on-site that can be accessed for an additional fee.

Staycation bookings do happen for the guest house, along with girls' weekend bookings, birthdays or other occasions, Arauz said. Almost all guests come from Missouri and learn about the guesthouse from Vrbo, the guesthouse website, other referrals or recurring guests, she added.

Charles Dunlap covers courts, public safety and other general subjects for the Tribune. You can reach him at cdunlap@columbiatribune.com or @CD_CDT on Twitter. Please consider subscribing to support vital local journalism.

This article originally appeared on Columbia Daily Tribune: High Missouri gas prices don't deter travel, but may shorten distances