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June 22. 2012 8:02PM

Lower gas prices fuel vacation plans


Anthony Lambert of Manchester fills up at the Mobil station on Hanover Street in Manchester on Friday. (DAVID LANE / UNION LEADER)

MANCHESTER — Standing at a self-serve pump at the Kwik Stop Mobil station on Hanover Street on Friday, topping off the gas tank on his Ford Escape, Anthony Lambert of Manchester had dollar signs on his mind.

Not how much the fuel was costing, but how much less.

“A few months ago, I was spending $400 a week on gas,” said Lambert, who commutes from Manchester to Burlington, Mass., five days a week for work. “Now, it's about $50 less than that. That's real money. That's another tank of gas a week right there I'm keeping.”

While the mercury has been on the rise throughout the region this week, gas prices have headed south. The average price of gas in New Hampshire has dropped 4.9 cents a gallon this week, according to AAA Northern New England. Newhampshiregasprices.com reported Friday that the average price in the state was $3.40 a gallon, down 29 cents from the same date a year ago. The price is down 28 cents from a month ago.

The news has led to smiles on the faces of drivers across the state, as well as tourism officials.

“We expect a great summer this year, between the falling gas prices, great weather and more visitation from our Canadian neighbors,” said Tai Freligh, communications manager for the state's Division of Travel and Tourism Development. “New Hampshire usually has lower gas prices than the national average and with our state being so compact in size, you don't have to use as much gas to get to all the great things to do here.”

Many of those visitors are expected in the coming weeks, as experts forecast the largest number of travelers in the last decade to venture forth on the Fourth.

AAA projects 42.3 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more from home during the Independence Day holiday week, a 4.9 percent increase over the 40.3 million people who traveled last year. The expected holiday travel volume is projected to tie the past decade's previous high mark, set in 2007, representing just shy of a 42 percent increase over 2009.

Of those, AAA forecasts approximately 35.5 million people will travel by automobile, also setting a high-water mark for the last 10 years, as 84 percent of all Independence Day travelers get behind the wheel. That's a 4 percent increase over the 34.1 million people who traveled by auto last year.

Freligh said his office predicts that many locals will enjoy “staycations” that week, converting lower in-state gas prices into extra spending money locally.

“Summer is our busiest season and with the lower gas prices and sunny weather, we fully expect New Hampshire residents to stay and play right here in state, whether it's hitting up the mountains and lakes or heading to the beaches,” said Freligh.

Less pain at the pump



Drivers filling up at the Kwik Stop Mobil station on Hanover Street Friday said they try not to let the price of gas dictate their lives or travel plans, but every penny not spent on filling up cars adds up.

“We never let anything like that bother us,” said Mark Vadnais of Manchester. “It might change how far we would go on a trip, but it wouldn't stop us from going. We didn't plan to stay home because of gas prices. The price drop has been a long time coming. I just hope they stay down after the election.”

Imad Ramadan of Manchester was filling up before heading to a restaurant in North Andover, Mass., with a car full of kids for dinner. He said he would have made the trip even if prices were where they were a few months ago.

“It's one of those things, you still have to live your life whether the prices are high or not,” said Ramadan. “I guess if the prices were high we would think about that before taking a trip, but we mostly stay in the White Mountains anyway. I don't like Massachusetts very much — it's bad enough I have to work down there.”

While some experts have pinpointed the generally weak U.S. economy as one reason behind falling gas prices, one Manchester driver had another theory.

“Gas prices always go up in the summer — except the summer before an election,” said Keith Johnson of Manchester. “Why is that? Is it just convenient? I'm not a conspiracy theorist by any means — I don't know who killed Kennedy and there's no tin foil on my head — but there's something to be said for that trend. AAA always projects gas prices go up in the summer, and in non-election year summers, they do. I think you will see them continue to go down over the next couple of months.”

“I love the prices, the way they are coming down,” said Lambert. “$3.39 a gallon, you gotta love it. An extra $50 savings a week — who wouldn't love that?”

pfeely@unionleader.com


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