PHOTO: AAA projects the national average for a gallon of gasoline to increase 40 cents this summer. (photo via Flickr/Mike Mozart)
With gas prices expected to climb this summer, U.S. national parks and theme parks could experience a welcome boom in closer-to-home business.
According to a new survey conducted by AAA, nearly one-quarter of Americans already feel prices at the pump are too high. And while more than 70 percent plan to make everyday changes in response to higher summer gas prices, a majority still intend to take a road trip in 2017.
"Higher gas prices are already influencing the travel industry," said AAA's senior vice president of travel and publishing Bill Sutherland in a statement.
"The good news is people are still planning to hit the road. With nearly 80 percent of family travelers planning a road trip this year, higher gas prices are making shorter trips to national parks and theme parks the most desired travel destinations."
Despite AAA's projection that the national average for a gallon of gas will peak at $2.70 this summer, which is approximately a 70 cent increase from this time last year, the 80 percent figure Sutherland pointed out is up 10 percentage points from 2016.
AAA's research shows that to make their summer vacation dreams a reality, Americans are willing to drive less, carpool, delay major purchases, reduce the frequency in which they shop and dine out, and combine errands and trips to offset higher gas prices.
However, Americans age 35 or older are more likely to change their habits compared to younger travelers, AAA's survey found.
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Those travelers eying a potentially shorter road trip to one America's many national parks will have a handful of opportunities to visit for free in the coming months. April 15-16 and April 22-23 are Weekends of National Park Week while August 25 is National Park Service Birthday.
On those dates, parks that typically charge visitors a fee will offer free admission.
Meanwhile, road trippers in the Southeast U.S. will want to mark May 25 on their calendar. That's when Universal Orlando's highly anticipated Volcano Bay water park is scheduled to open.
The world's first-ever water theme park will also be line-less, meaning guests can reserve their ride in advance and hop on when it's their time.