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Drivers find alternative ways to trim travel expenses

CALABASAS, Calif. - Like many holiday travelers, Ron Evenhaim isn't going to let rising gasoline prices curtail his plans for a weekend getaway.

Evenhaim rented a 40-foot diesel RV to take his family of five on the 300-mile round trip from his home in suburban Los Angeles to Lake Isabella in the Tehachapi Mountains.

"That's 30 gallons," he said, using the vehicle's average mileage of 8 to 10 mpg.

"Even if gas prices go up $1, that's an extra $30. You buy the kids a sandwich halfway and you've spent more," he said.

Americans are expected to do slightly more driving this Memorial Day weekend than they did last year. But the near-record gasoline prices are prompting some travelers to take shorter trips and economize in other ways.

About 38 million Americans are expected to travel 50 miles or more this weekend, a 1.7 percent increase from last year's holiday, according to the AAA. About 83 percent of them will drive, with the remainder taking airplanes, trains or other transportation.

An AP-Ipsos poll showed that nearly half of the country says gasoline prices are causing a "serious hardship," but fewer people than last year are reducing their driving, trimming other expenses or curtailing vacation plans due to higher energy costs.

Holiday travelers will find gasoline prices nationwide averaging $3.04 a gallon for self-serve regular, according to AAA. That's up 25 cents from last month and more than

15 cents from the same time last year.

Hotel rates also are up about 13 percent from last year, the association found, but flights and car rentals are expected to be a bit cheaper. Vacationers seem resigned to current gasoline prices and confident that, as in previous years, prices will drop after the traditional start of the summer driving season.

At a Marathon station just south of Chicago's downtown, there was a steady stream of customers where regular gasoline cost $3.79 a gallon.

George Blakemore, 65, of Chicago was gearing up to drive more than 1,000 miles to attend a wedding in Florida.

He said because he would spend so much on gasoline, the family packed snacks and lunches to save money.

"We are limited in our budget," he said. "We are not able to spend as much at convenience stores or buy souvenirs."

At a Citgo station along the Florida Turnpike in Miami, regular gasoline was selling for $3.21 a gallon.

At one pump, 29-year-old David Cook of Hollywood, Fla., and his younger brother, Danny, made a quick stop for gasoline and snacks before the four-hour drive to Key West to meet friends for a bachelor party weekend.

"Sure, the price of gas here is a little high, but compared to other cities I've heard, it's not that bad," David Cook said as he filled up his Honda Civic.

Matt Reveley, a 23-year-old chemical company engineer from Cambridge, Mass., paid $3.09 per gallon to fill up his Toyota at a Mobil station in Cambridge as he looked forward to sharing a ride with a friend for a weekend getaway to Maine.

Reveley said he's carpooling mainly for convenience, and to avoid spending too much time behind the wheel.

"The gas prices are really not going to affect my plans that much," he said.

But he does feel the effect of higher gasoline prices when he makes his daily commute.

"I drive to work, and when it gets to $3 a gallon, it's kind of a big deal," he said. "I've got to drive."

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