Cheap gas & Hermine means unpredictable number of Labor Day weekend travelers

NORFOLK, Va. - Some people taking advantage of cheap gas prices will be hitting the road this Labor Day weekend.

Oliver Modlin said was filling up his gas tank and said, “I am going to Hartford, North Carolina."

Stormy weather had some people worried while others said they're not.

One man who wanted to be identified as Scott said, “Doesn't make no difference to me. I'm just sitting on the passenger side I'm not to know driving so I don't care."

His sister, Marilyn Scott, said, “I'm fine with it, I drove in a blizzard for 10 hours.”

What to expect from T.S. Hermine | Latest closings & delaysHurricane and Tropical Storm Resources

AAA said historically 1 million people in the state of Virginia will typically travel over the Labor Day Weekend and nine out of 10 travelers will be driving.

The rest of them will find another means of transportation like flying or taking the bus like the people News 3 spoke to at the Greyhound Bus Station in Downtown Norfolk.

Charlene Brown said, “I'm headed to DC to see my fiancé… I’m hoping it holds up.”

Several people told News 3 they have canceled their weekend plans.

Judy Pauley said, “We had plans to go to the mountain tomorrow but we're going to stay home keep an eye on the storm. Our yard tends to flood so we need to keep an eye on that.”

While others said they're going to wait and see what happens.

Chuck Studds said he might travel. He said, “We don't know how bad we're going to get it with the rain and the wind and I fear it's going to be 45 to 50 miles an hour with the wind so it could get nasty around here.”

“We will do it another weekend,” said Pauley.

Below is information from Martha Meade, a representative from AAA:

“Historically about 1M Virginians travel over the Labor Day weekend. The vast majority, about 9 in 10, drive. That means on Friday afternoon/evening and Monday afternoon/ evening, Virginia drivers must be prepared to share the roadways with countless others and be prepared for delays.  AAA urges motorists to take the delays in stride – to be prepared for them.  Delays are a minor inconvenience when compared to the dangers of drunk, drugged, drowsy, or distracted driving… for those, the consequences can be deadly.

Labor Day gas prices are the big story this year as they are expected to be at their lowest level in the last 12 years, since 2004. Interestingly, this is the first time in many years that gas prices ARE impacting the decision to travel. Gas price fluctuations have become the norm and motorists have reported for years that gas price levels were not affecting their decision to travel.  This year, however, according to a AAA survey, 55 percent of Americans say they are more likely to take a road trip due to the lower cost to fill their tank. Gas prices are simply too low for Virginian’s to forgo that last great summer get-away!”

While the cost of fuel has been rising slightly for the past two weeks- after dropping for two straight months - that trend may be temporary.

  • Refinery issues in the Gulf Coast …
  • Storms in the Gulf of Mexico
  • OPEC talks about lowering production
  • The possibility of  the U.S. Federal Reserve raising interest rates

…have all caused crude oil prices to rise.

If no major storms impact production/supply and other factors remain stable, the consumer price for gas could level out or even drop in the weeks ahead. After the Labor Day holiday, demand drops after and refineries switch to more affordable winter blends of gasoline. These factors generally result in lower pump prices.

Virginia gas prices are the 5th lowest in the nation.

 Should I Stay or Should I GO?

As tropical storm Hermine moves along the east coast, Labor Day travelers are faced with a difficult decision; Do I stay or do I go? Knowing the driving conditions and accommodation options at your destination is the key to making your decision, according to AAA. “Understanding driving conditions, the status of accommodations and cancellation options will enable travelers to make sound decisions on whether to maintain holiday weekend plans or to forgo them,” noted Martha Mitchell Meade, Manager Public and Government Affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic.

While many hotels and rental homes are booked solid for the Labor Day weekend as nearly one million Virginians historically travel, getting to them could may be dicey and dangerous due to flooded roadways, downed power lines and debris, according to AAA. Utilizing state Department of Transportation 511 data will allow travelers to see conditions, road closures, traffic levels, roadway incidents and more. “Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina all have specific information for beach bound travelers which will aid tremendously with the difficult decision on whether to move forward with holiday travel plans. Knowledge everything in this situation and the information is readily available,” said Meade. If not considering a trip to the beach, other state’s 511 data is equally helpful. “While the last blast of summer fun is beloved by many, there is no point attempting a trip that is doomed to fail and make everyone miserable in the process.”

AAA also advises that delaying your departure based on the storm’s path and roadway conditions could be advisable. This would allow water to recede and for hoteliers and property managers to once again prepare for guest arrivals. “AAA strongly advises travelers to call hotel properties directly, rather than calling a reservation number to determine local conditions and your destination’s readiness to accept patrons,” Meade noted.

Cancellation penalties or no-refund policies are additional factors to consider. Coastal resort and beach destinations, in particular, depend on this final and popular summer holiday weekend for revenue. Due to high demand levels and the goal of maximizing income in preparation for low season when bookings are sparse, many vendors require non-refundable deposits or full pre-payment with a no refund policy. In contrast, however, customer relations and retention is key to any business success. These reasons make the “knowledge is power” saying apropos. “AAA recommends that travelers talking directly with their destination’s representatives to determine refund options AND advising them of any changes to arrival dates. If delaying a trip to allow the storm to pass, travelers want to be sure that their accommodations are ready for them and have not been re-sold to others,” urged Meade.

Travel Insurance could also come into play. While most travel insurance does not cover weather incidents like tropical storm Hermine, knowing exactly what is covered is one more piece of information to aid travelers approaching a stormy start to the holiday weekend.

Good weekend vacation options may still be very much on the horizon once the storm passes. Not only could weather clear and beaches and other areas be beautiful once again and ready to accept guests, business at those destinations are going to be excited to see tourists arriving after worrying about a complete wash out on the final weekend of the busy summer travel season.