Gas prices force some to alter summer road trip plans, while others reluctantly take financial hit

School’s out and Canadians are officially in summer vacation mode — and though the pressures of rising inflation aren’t stopping everyone from summer trips, those who are hitting the road are facing painful prices at the pump.

That includes Marina Furlani, who pulled into a rest stop with her family east of Winnipeg a few days ago to snap a photo of a sign marking the longitudinal centre of Canada. 

“We’ve been trying to track down [lower] costs for gas, but it’s been kind of hard,” she said. “It’s a lot more than we expected to spend.”

Moving from Montreal to Edmonton in an SUV and a U-Haul, Furlani said the family has been forced to fill up both tanks of gas every three hours or so.

She took some solace in knowing they were heading west, where gas prices are marginally cheaper — an average of 188.1 cents per litre in Alberta heading into the Canada Day long weekend, compared to 212.4 in Quebec, according to the Canadian Automobile Association.

“That’s a relief,” she said, but “it doesn’t make that much of a difference — still it’s costing us a lot.”

Marina Furlani takes a selfie by a maple leaf sign at the longitudinal centre of Canada, east of Winnipeg, on Tuesday. Her family wasn’t expecting such high fuel costs during their move from Quebec to Alberta. (CBC)

Furlani says her family had to stop to fuel up their U-Haul and SUV every three hours as they moved their belongings. (CBC)

Kelly Baranieski also absorbed the financial blow.

Her family was driving two vehicles from Toronto to see family: first to Winnipeg, then to northern Saskatchewan, then to Canmore and Waterton in Alberta, before heading back home to Ontario.

“We have family across the Prairies and it’s really important to us … for our children to meet our family in person, especially as our family gets older or as different things have happened throughout COVID,” Baranieski said.

It cost about $130 to fill up each vehicle every time they had to stop along the way, she said.

That cost matters, “but not enough to not do it,” said Baranieski.

“This isn’t a pleasure trip — I mean, we’re going to have an amazing time — but we’re doing it to stop and see family.”

Kelly Baranieski, right, and her family take a pit stop at the longitudinal centre of Canada. Baranieski said the fuel costs are significant, but it’s more important to her that her children get to reconnect with family across the Prairies after years of distance caused by the pandemic. (CBC)

The national average price of gas over the past week or so has been $2, according to CAA. That may not be halting everyone’s summer plans, but it’s definitely changing the equation for some.

CAA in southern Ontario recently asked its members about gas prices and their summer travel plans.

“Affordability is top of mind,” said Kaitlynn Furse, spokesperson for CAA in that region.

“When you start to look at what those behaviours are at that $2 mark, it really is around maybe taking fewer road trips.”

Beth Potter, CEO of the Tourism Industry Association of Canada, said with COVID-19 restrictions lifted, her orgnization is “seeing a real pent-up demand for visitors to get out and explore their country.”

“We’re watching whether that wanes this summer,” as plans are scaled back — fewer trips, or shorter ones closer to home — to lessen the hit to the wallet, she said.

Expensive or not, Vincent Ozenne says he’s determined to keep on keeping on. For Ozenne, who is from France, driving across Canada and the U.S. has always been a dream.

He had his RV shipped to Nova Scotia from Belgium, when diesel prices were cheaper in Canada than in Europe. That’s no longer the case.

Ozenne had his diesel vehicle shipped from Europe to Canada for his North American road trip. (CBC)

“I came [to] Halifax, [and] the price came up double in a week,” he said. “It’s a real problem, because I have to cut some roads I want to take.”

While he’s modifying his plans to save here and there, Ozenne, like Baranieski and Furlani, says the trip must go on.

“You get me right now in front of the middle of Canada, I don’t have enough words in English to express what I am feeling,” he said. 

“It’s a wonderful country. Wonderful people, too.”