Money
June 15, 2017 1:00 pm
Getty Images/Michael Hanson

American drivers have been getting spoiled.

Gas prices have now averaged less than $2.50 per gallon nationally for more than 18 months. In fact, they’ve been low for so long it’s easy to forget that drivers were paying an average of $3.50 or higher from 2011 to 2013, and that gas spiked to over $4 a gallon nationally in 2008.

So, on the eve of summer 2017 and peak road trip season, let’s reckon how historically cheap gas prices are right now.

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According to AAA, the average price for a gallon of regular gasoline is $2.33 nationally. That’s about 5 cents cheaper than this time last year, and roughly the same as the national average set throughout 2005, the first year that U.S. gas prices were consistently above $2.

The price drops are even greater in several states, as the gas price-tracking site GasBuddy noted recently. As of June 9, statewide gas prices were 26 cents less per gallon than a year earlier in Ohio, and 13 to 25 cents per gallon cheaper in Michigan, Kentucky, Indiana, and Illinois.

The drop in gas prices comes somewhat as a surprise, because until very recently prices had been consistently higher in 2017 than they had been in 2016—which was also a standout year for cheap gas. “At the beginning of the year, I would have bet against you if you’d have said gas prices this summer could be lower than last year—which saw the cheapest summer average since 2005,” GasBuddy analyst Patrick DeHaan said.

But now it looks likely that drivers will pay even less for gas this summer, with fuel prices set to be cheaper than in more than a decade. “As the summer driving season zooms ahead, U.S. drivers may see drops continue into July and August,” AAA wrote in its most recent weekly gas price report.

Related article: Here’s how gas prices could drop by 50% very soon

With that in mind, it’s high time to start planning a summer road trip. Here are a few ideas:

Classic Options

America’s iconic road trips are heavy on amazing scenery and bucket-list destinations. Suggestions for “America’s Best Road Trips” from Travel + Leisure include drives through the Florida Keys, the Hana Highway in Maui, Route 100 in the Green Mountains of Vermont, and a Santa Fe-Taos loop in New Mexico.

Frommers.com recommends both Texas hill country and the national parks of southern Utah among the most scenic road trips in the U.S.

And MONEY has highlighted Route 66 in the American Southwest and Skyline Drive in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Appalachia as classic drives well worth your consideration.

Comprehensive Routes

If you prize efficiency above all else—or you simply love state capitals—you could follow the lead of a researcher who used algorithms and Google Maps to plot the smartest road trip for seeing every Capitol building in the Lower 48 states. To accomplish such a feat, you must log over 13,000 miles behind the wheel.

That could be costly even with cheap gas. Save some cash while on the road by taking advantage of the best free thing to do in every state in the country. Perhaps you could also mix up the usual motels by staying in quirky (and often cheap) lodging, including teepees, lighthouses, train cabooses, and fire lookouts.

Easy Adventures

If visiting 48 states sounds a bit ambitious, consider one of the easy road trips courtesy of Travel & Leisure—each with a destination roughly two hours away from a major city.

Related article: 13 money-saving travel hacks from the woman behind Frommer’s guidebooks

Foodie

Pilgrimages

Beyond new sights and scenery, perhaps the biggest perk of hitting the road is that you can feel free to taste every dish you come across that you can’t get back home. If food is your passion, consider a few themed road trip suggestions from the Food & Wine (which highlights wine tasting trips and lobster sampling, among other themes) and and the Food Channel (for maple syrup in Vermont, bourbon in Kentucky).

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