Hurricane Isaac, which may hit the Gulf Coast late Tuesday or early Wednesday and has already shut down several refineries, could send gas prices up right before Labor Day weekend. But for now, it looks like Americans are still making plans to travel.
The average fuel price in Fairfax County on Sunday was $3.80 — more than 20-cents higher than just a month ago and slightly higher than Friday's national average of $3.75.
AAA defines the Labor Day holiday weekend as starting on Thursday and ending Monday, Sept. 3. AAA projects that 33 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home during the upcoming Labor Day holiday weekend.
“In the absence of strong economic growth that might fuel a significant boost in travel volume, it is an encouraging sign that Americans continue to prioritize travel,” said Bill Sutherland, vice president of AAA Travel Services. “Travel is still within America’s discretionary budget.”
An estimated 28.2 million travelers — 85 percent — will make their Labor Day trip by car. This is a 3.1 percent increase over the 27.3 million people who traveled by automobile during the Labor Day weekend last year.
In April, motorists experienced a year-to-date peak average gas price of $3.94 per gallon for unleaded gasoline. According to AAA, gas prices are not expected to have a major impact on Labor Day weekend travel unless there is a significant unexpected event such as a hurricane.
However, as the holiday weekend draws near, increased gas prices may cause some travelers to change their plans.
Gas Prices in Northern Virginia and Nearby College Towns
According to AAA, here are the latest prices in college towns in and near northern Virginia:
- University of Virginia (Charlottesville) - Area Average: $3.52. Last week, the average in the Charlottesville area was $3.47, and the average last month was $3.20.
- Virginia Tech (Blacksburg) - Area Average: $3.48. Last week, the average in Blacksburg area was $3.49, and the average last month was $3.17
- James Madison University (Harrisonburg) - Area Average: $3.55. The average in Harrisonburg last week was $3.46 and $3.24 last month.
- University of Maryland College Park - Area Average: $3.77. Last week’s average gas prices for unleaded in College Park, Md., was $3.75 and $3.56 last month.
- George Washington University (Washington, D.C.) - Area Average: $3.89. Last week, the average in this area of D.C. was $3.92 and $3.71 in July.
- Georgetown University (Washington, D.C.) - Area Average: $3.93. The average last week in this part of D.C. was $4.02 and last month’s average was $3.87.
- Catholic University of America (Washington, D.C.) - Area Average: $3.87. Last week’s average in this area was $3.88 and last month’s average was $3.93.
- Howard University (Washington, D.C.) - Area Average: $3.90. Last week’s average in this part of D.C. was $3.96 and last month’s average was $3.71.
Travelers who own a smart phone can download the free mobile app that provides GPS navigation that helps with mapping a route and finding current gas prices near by.