DES MOINES — Gasoline prices in Iowa are averaging almost a dollar lower than last year, but it won’t be enough to lure most of us to take a road trip for Memorial Day weekend.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Rose White, at AAA-Iowa, says the motor club isn’t releasing a holiday weekend travel forecast for the first time in 20 years. “Last year, 43-million Americans traveled for the holiday weekend, it was the second-highest travel volume on record since we began tracking information,” White says, “but with social distancing guidelines still in practice, this holiday weekend’s travel volume is likely to set a record low.”
Travel Iowa ran a full-page ad in some newspapers last week featuring a couple on a deck overlooking a wide vista of green hills with just four words — “Dream Now, Visit Later.” White says many Iowa families will be doing exactly that. “We anticipate that people are going to hold back. For those who maybe had planned a long-distance, maybe an overseas vacation, they’ll likely revert to a local or regional destination,” White says. “We do anticipate as the states relax their laws and regulations pertaining to social distancing, more people will travel, but it will be a slow recovery.”
In recent weeks, highway travel in the state was said to be down 44% from normal, according to the Iowa DOT, but over Mother’s Day weekend, the numbers crept up to 75% of normal. Even with that increase, Triple-A is still expecting a potential record low for travel this coming weekend.
“The CDC does still recommend that Americans stay home and avoid nonessential travel, but if you do travel this holiday weekend, we do advise you to pack essentials, especially those toiletries that might be needed at rest stops,” White says, “and also, anticipate early closures of restaurants.”
Gasoline is averaging a $1.75 a gallon in Iowa, that’s 13-cents below the national average. A year ago, gas prices in Iowa were averaging $2.67 a gallon. The last time the average national gas price leading into the Memorial Day holiday was under $2 a gallon was 17 years ago — in 2003