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Low Gas Prices Will Drive Summer Vacation Plans

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Although low gas prices will likely lead to increased summer vacation spending, they won't lead to longer trips, according to a recent survey of gas customers conducted by NACS, the Association for Convenience & Fuel Retailing.

Of those who are planning vacations, 81 percent say they will spend at least as much on vacation this year as they did last summer. This is a 10-percent increase from 2014, when gas prices averaged more than $3.60 per gallon.

While low gas prices may influence the length of a vacation, they likely will not influence the distance driven, according to NACS. Only 11 percent of drivers say they will drive more this summer because of low gas prices.

For convenience retailers, summer vacationers plan to spend time and money inside the c-store when they fill up the tank. Overall, 62 percent of travelers say they expect to buy a drink and 58 percent say they will buy a snack when they refuel. More than a quarter (28 percent) say they will buy a meal or sandwich while filling up.

With gas prices low, price is less important to consumers when they shop for fuel. Forty-six percent of drivers say they will stop at the closest location when they are ready to stop, compared to the 41 percent who say that price determines where they will stop.

This marks the first time that price was not cited as the No. 1 reason to select a fueling site. Quality food options (34 percent) and clean bathrooms (33 percent) were also listed as top reasons to stop, according to NACS.

"Vacationers are saying that they will reward retailers who can best meet their one-stop shopping needs — whether fueling up, taking a bathroom break, grabbing quick snacks and drinks, or enjoying upscale meals and healthy options," said NACS Vice President of Strategic Initiatives Jeff Lenard. 

Other survey highlights include:

  • 75 percent of travelers say they will use the store's bathroom when fueling up on trips this summer, a five-point jump from 2016.
  • Women are much more likely to purchase bottled water than men (66 percent vs. 49 percent, respectively), and are also more likely to buy candy (73 percent vs. 52 percent) and coffee (55 percent vs. 44 percent).
  • Travelers are seeking out healthier choices: 29 percent of consumers say they are buying a larger number of healthier selections than a year ago, and 43 percent of those ages 18-34 are buying healthier items.
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