Missouri’s high gas prices don’t discourage travel, but can shorten distances

The average gasoline price in Missouri was $4.92 on Friday. In Boone County, the average price was $4.85. With these prices about $2 higher than a year ago, you would think there would be a chilling effect on travel.

That’s not necessarily the case, according to AAA Missouri.

“All of our available data suggests that higher gas prices and the higher cost of inflation have not deterred people from traveling in general this summer,” wrote Nick Chabarria, spokesperson for the AAA, in an email to the Tribune. “In fact, AAA Missouri travel bookings have seen substantial year-over-year and month-over-month increases.”

Comparing May and June (as of Thursday), there was a 19% increase in travel bookings through AAA travel.

This month of June brought a 234% increase in bookings compared to the same month last year.

Even though there is an increase in travel compared to last year, people often don’t travel that far, according to FamilyDestinationsGuide.com.

A survey of just over 3,000 road travelers found the distance they are willing to travel is around half of what they used to be – from 568 miles to 320 miles round trip . That’s about the travel distance to Kansas City, Kansas, and back.

Seventy-five percent of respondents said “they are more concerned about the costs and high prices of inflation than they are (COVID-19)”, noting that they are more likely to seek out free activities or even things to do in their hotel.

“It’s a harsh reality that overall travel costs have increased due to soaring inflation rates and fuel costs,” said Rose Ackermann of Family Destinations Guide.

Families should take advantage of special offers, discounts and coupons to save money on travel wherever possible, Ackermann said.

Close to the house

For those who don’t want to travel, there are places to explore in the city of Columbia that you may never have visited, and even more when you consider the rest of Boone County, says the Columbia Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Some popular excursions in neighboring counties include Arrow Rock and Boonville, according to the office’s visitor guide.

Arrow Rock includes historic buildings and is a designated National Historic Site. Guests can catch a show at the Arrow Rock Lyceum Theater, which is currently showing “Jersey Boys” through July 3. Boonville is home to the Warm Springs Ranch, home to some of the Budweiser Clydesdales. The ranch is open to guests from April through October.

Columbia owns more than 35 pieces of public art, the office said. A person can plan their own art tour through the Otocast app.

For those looking for the city’s history, the bureau recommends the African-American Heritage Trail, a two-mile journey with historical markers throughout downtown.

For outdoor enthusiasts, there’s Rock Bridge Memorial State Park, with a variety of hiking opportunities, as well as the nearby MKT Trail or Katy Trail.

Move away, but stay local

There are options for Columbia residents to get away from it all, while still being fairly local. This may include bed and breakfasts in Rocheport, such as School House Bed & Breakfast or Amber House Bed & Breakfast.

Other options can be found through Airbnb and Vrbo. A nearby option is Pretty Lake Guest House, which is just a 15-minute drive from Columbia off South Rangeline Road and about 2 miles north of Columbia Regional Airport.

While Pretty Lake owner Abby Arauz hasn’t seen an increase in interest in staycations from those looking to stay in the area due to gas prices, she’s hearing from more and more companies looking for local team and corporate retreats.

“We are neighbors to the Mark Twain National Forest and have miles of hiking and mountain biking trails, a campground, 30 acres of manicured forest and a five-acre lake fully stocked with game fish that guests have for them alone,” Arauz wrote in an email to the Tribune. “The cabin rental includes a kayak, stand up paddle boards and an aluminum bass boat.

“Ultimately, our goal is for every guest to have a fun and relaxing time in nature and on the water.”

Another amenity that sets Pretty Lake apart is its on-site music and recording studio accessible for an additional fee.

Staycation bookings happen for the guesthouse, as well as weekend bookings for girls, birthdays or other occasions, Arauz said. Almost all of the guests are from Missouri and learn about the guesthouse through Vrbo, the guesthouse’s website, other referrals or repeat guests, she added.

Charles Dunlap covers the courts, public safety and other general topics for the Tribune. You can reach him at [email protected] or @CD_CDT on Twitter. Please consider subscribing to support vital local journalism.