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Gas prices forcing cancellation of spring travel plans

Published: Thu, April 21, 2011 @ 10:41 p.m.

Associated Press

With gas prices above $4 in some states, Americans are canceling spring break plans and rethinking summer vacation, and some tourist destinations are offering gas vouchers of as much as $50 to talk people out of giving up and staying home.

At Mount Rushmore, only about 37,000 people decided in March that seeing the four granite-etched presidential sculptures was worth the trip, down from about 43,000 a year before.

At the Grand Canyon, a marketing executive for one company that offers sweeping helicopter vistas says 10 percent fewer people than last year are driving up and booking tours. The company is counting on international tourists to make up the rest.

And along the Rhode Island coast, where 800,000 people a year show up to gawk at the opulence of Gilded Age mansions, it's even worse - business is off 30 percent just since the beginning of March.

Memorial Day is still five weeks away, and summer doesn't officially start for two months. This year, anxiety over high gas prices - and whether the family vacation will bust the family budget - has come early.

"I can't go anywhere because I can't afford it," said Greg Sensing, who works in admissions for the University of Maryland. "It's kind of nice to take a road trip, to get in the car, you see the country, and now why bother doing it?"

The gas jitters have much broader implications than how many people show up to take pictures of Bryce Canyon, Mount Rainier or the Everglades. Gas prices are closely tied to the health of the overall economy.

A gallon of gas costs an average of $3.84 in the United States, almost a full dollar more than a year ago. The average is above $4 in six states: $4.52 in Hawaii, $4.21 in California, $4.18 in Alaska, $4.11 in Connecticut, $4.08 in Illinois and $4.05 in New York.

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