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Has soaring gas prices made summer road trips unaffordable? Here are some ways to save

Traffic heads east on Highway 33 near Warings Corners in Prince Edward County, Ontario on April 30.Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

Six months ago, Christine Martin secured a campsite in Bruce Peninsula National Park, near Tobermory, Ontario. It’s a scenic spot on the shores of Georgian Bay, and she says it’s hard to find one, “especially on the peninsula.”

‘I booked it in February thinking the gas prices would be right, and here we are a week before we left and I had to cancel it,’ she said. With the cost of gas — provincial averages at the time of writing ranged from $1.88 per liter in Alberta to $2.16 per liter in British Columbia — she couldn’t justify the seven-hour drive from her homeport in Morrisburg, Ontario.

“You have to budget around $700 for gas to go camping for a week when you’re paying around $150 for camping. It just doesn’t seem worth it,” she said. “And the another thing too is that the car we take is an SUV. I can only use premium gasoline. So it’s even worse. »

Many Canadians are in Ms. Martin’s shoes. A Leger poll conducted for the Tire and Rubber Association of Canada in May found that 66% of Canadian drivers are canceling or limiting road trips this summer due to the price of gas. This number jumps to 75% for 18 to 24 year olds.

Ms Martin pointed out that she could get a flight to visit her uncle in British Columbia for the $700 she would spend to get to his campsite, but the unpredictable scenes happening at airports around the world whole – long lines for security and customs, delayed and canceled flights, missing baggage – are off-putting. Yet the wanderlust remains, especially after the past two years.

Karolane Lessard, content manager at Authentik Canada, a Montreal-based travel agency specializing in road trips in Canada, says people are still hitting the road. “People are not ready to give up traveling. I think they’re just adjusting their expectations,” she said.

Similarly, Kaitlynn Furse, director of corporate communications at CAA South Central Ontario, says the number of inquiries from TripTiks, the organization’s destination-specific car trip planners, is the same as before the pandemic. .

Sheldon Franchuk is one such traveler. The Toronto resident and his girlfriend travel to Tadoussac, Quebec to go whale watching – a trip they’ve been talking about since 2020.

Mr. Franchuk drives to work every day, an 80 kilometer round trip, and says he has become accustomed to the cost of gas. It now costs $80 to fill his car’s tank; before prices started to rise, it was $55.

The couple also enjoy the flexibility the ride gives them. “Things are opening up, but we’re still a little nervous about things. You have a lot more control in a car, rather than traveling by plane,” he said.

When it comes to making the decision to move on or change plans, Furse says $2 a liter is the magic number that inspires people to change their behavior. Of respondents to a recent CAA survey, 64% said rising fuel prices are likely to affect their travel plans.

But, Ms Furse said, many are willing to adjust their budget for other travel expenses. “Maybe you’re spending less on hotel and food to offset some of the extra gas costs,” she said. Other travelers opt for different routes. “Not a huge trip to PEI or anything, but choosing shorter distances that might be a bit more affordable.”

Melissa Leong, Toronto-based money expert and author of personal finance advice book good go money, said there are ways to save if you go on the road. Plan your trip so you don’t take a circuitous route or make stops out of the way, she advises.

“Google Maps offers an eco-friendly route and an option to avoid tolls. Use a gas app to find the cheapest gas prices in the area and avoid stations right next to the highway And when you reach a major city, park and opt for public transit downtown to avoid parking fees and traffic.

Ms. Leong plans to do her own weekend drive, with another family, in a van. They could share the costs, stay in the province and take advantage of Ontario’s stay tax credit, Leong said. “A road trip, for me, is above all adventure and a change of scenery. You don’t have to go far to find it. »

(The tax credit allows Ontario residents to claim 20% of eligible accommodation expenses for 2022, up to a maximum of $1,000 for an individual or $2,000 for a family, on their return income.)

Ms Lessard of Authentik Canada said her agency recommends clients embrace “slow travel”. This does not mean shortening the trip, but stopping at fewer destinations and staying longer, exploring, discovering and meeting people.

And then there are the driving habits that limit fuel consumption: keeping the tires at the pressure recommended by the manufacturer; turn off the vehicle if you wait longer than a stop light; minimize the use of air conditioning.

Certain consumer habits can also help: the CAA has a partnership with Shell which allows members of the CAA, BCAA and AMA (Alberta Motor Association) to save 3 cents per liter at the pump, and several cards credit cards offer cash back or reward points for fuel costs.

Managing expectations while managing costs will minimize the stress of road trip. “Obviously it’s going to be different for a while, and everyone is trying to adapt,” Ms. Lessard said. “We are all making the best of this situation.”

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