Holiday strain: Gas prices put brakes on Christmas driving

By ERROL CASTENS / Daily Journal Oxford Bureau

The recent rise in gasoline prices may limit travel plans over the Christmas and New Year’s holiday season for Northeast Mississippians, reflecting a national pattern.
Of several Northeast Mississippians questioned Sunday while they fueled their cars, most said they would be staying home this year. For some, cost was the immediate factor.
“We ain’t going nowhere,” said Brittney Kwasinski of New Albany. “Lots of times we’ll either go to Chicago or to Florida during the Christmas season, and we would have gone to Disney World this time if it hadn’t been so pricey just to get there.”
The nationwide average price for regular gas, according to the American Automobile Association, is $2.98, compared to $2.62 a year ago. In Northeast Mississippi, prices now range from $2.69 to $2.89, which is about 30 cents more than a year ago.
Regina Hill of New Albany said she normally would go to Georgia to see family at Christmas.
“Between the gas price and buying the presents, we just can’t do it,” she said. “We’re going to be having Christmas here this year.”
A young woman from Tupelo who identified herself as Michelle was just returning home Sunday from a road trip to Chicago that was prompted by a relative’s death. Usually her family goes to Chicago during the holidays.
“We can’t afford to go right back, so we’ll be spending Christmas at home,” she said.
Some people always celebrate close to home. Gary Fowler, a cold-storage construction specialist from Mableton, Ga., drives through Northeast Mississippi frequently on his way to and from a job site in Covington, Tenn.
While his commuting costs are high, his Christmas travel is simple and inexpensive.
“Most of my family lives right around Atlanta,” he said.
Michael Jennings of Mantachie, most of whose relatives live mostly around Blue Springs, has a similar situation.
“Christmas won’t be but a 60-mile drive,” he said. “If it was a long trip, I’d probably stay home.”
Jimmy Wayne Sellers of Holly Springs was one of those who’ll bite the bullet and pay the cost to go see relatives during the holidays.
“Gas is going up too high to buy,” he said. “We’ve got to go to Kansas City, but it’s going to affect us pretty good.”
Dave Morris of New Albany doesn’t travel for Christmas itself, but he won’t let extra cost keep him from being at the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla., on New Year’s Day to cheer the Mississippi State Bulldogs.
“You’ve got to go,” he said with a shrug. “I don’t like the increase, but if you’re going to go, you’ve got to pay the way.”
A Rasmussen Reports poll last week noted about 17 percent of respondents were planning to travel over the holidays. While that’s up three points from last year, more than half the respondents said they were less likely to travel than in previous years.
Contact Errol Castens at (662) 281-1069 or errol.castens@djournal.com.