Labor Day Road Trip? 10 Cheapest Gas States Offer a Full Tank of Vacation Options

As tens of millions of Americans prepare to get in their cars and trucks for their final road trips of the summer, the high price of gas will hit home again -- but for some, a bit less painfully than for others. 24/7 Wall St. looked at the states where the price of a gallon of regular is well below the national average of $3.62 to find the places where traveling by car is more of a bargain. And it turns out, those states offer bountiful vacation options for the budget-conscious family.

The number of people taking road trips this holiday weekend may actually rise compared to last Labor Day, despite the fact that gas cost significantly less last year: an average of $2.68 per gallon of regular. AAA predicts that 31.5 million Americans will travel more 50 miles from home by car from Sept. 1 to Sept. 5. The association pegs its predicted increase in automobile travel to high air fares and families' budget concerns based on the state of the economy.

24/7 Wall St. identified the 10 states with the lowest average price per gallon of both regular and premium according to AAA's daily measure as of Wednesday. Data from the Department of Transportation on total cars owned in each of these states in 2009 and total gallons of gas consumed by cars, trucks and buses in 2009 was added. As would be expected, total vehicle ownership by state tracked fairly well with total gallons of gas consumed.

So where is it the least expensive to travel by car? The South, in the case of every state on this list except Arizona (southern, yes, but technically, in the Southwest). There are multiple reasons for this. Much of the region is close to the oil refineries on the Gulf of Mexico. Most states on this list also have low median incomes. And it may be that the laws of supply and demand are such that those people who can least afford gas use it as economically as possible. That alone could push down prices per gallon locally.

Whatever the reasons, the resorts and beaches of the South will be the best places to travel on a budget this Labor Day, at least as far as the price of gas is concerned.

10. Louisiana

Gallon of Regular: $3.48
Gallon of Premium: $3.74
Gas Consumed Annually: 2.99 billion gallons
Number of Vehicles: 4.03 million

Parts of the state's coast have still not recovered entirely from Hurricane Katrina. There remain, however, several excellent vacation spots along the Gulf of Mexico, including Gulfport and Lake Charles. And New Orleans remains a major destination for tourists.

9. Arkansas

Gallon of Regular: $3.48
Gallon of Premium: $3.74
Gas Consumed Annually: 2.05 billion gallons
Number of Vehicles: 2.04 million

Arkansas is a popular vacation destination for many people in the central U.S. Two of the nation's largest natural springs -- Hot Springs and Eureka Springs -- are located in the state. The Ozark Mountains are a favorite destination for travelers interested in music and folk concerts. Arkansas also has several hundred lakes, the largest of which form the Diamond Lakes region.

8. Alabama

Gallon of Regular: $3.47
Gallon of Premium: $3.75
Gas Consumed Annually: 3.29 billion gallons
Number of Vehicles: 4.61 million

Alabama has active tourist areas on the Gulf around Mobile, though its shores have not entirely recovered from Katrina either. Tourists interested in Southern history can visit a number of important Civil War sites in the state. Alabama also hosts a number of Labor Day music festivals, including those in Section and McCalla.

7. Missouri
Gallon of Regular: $3.47
Gallon of Premium: $3.71
Gas Consumed Annually: 4.15 billion gallons
Number of Vehicles: 4.9 million

The Ozark Mountains offer some of the most popular destinations in the state, and Branson is a center of country music entertainment. Missouri also has a number of well-known fishing options, among them the Merrimack River and Pomme de Terre Lake.

6. Texas
Gallon of Regular: $3.47
Gallon of Premium: $3.74
Gas Consumed Annually: 15.77 billion gallons
Number of Vehicles: 18.21 million

Texas is big enough to offer options for nearly every possible outdoor activity and vacation preference: Coastal resorts near Corpus Christie; abundant camp sites in pine forests; urban options in Houston and Dallas; and dozens of historic sites, the most famous of which is the Alamo.

5. Virginia
Gallon of Regular: $3.46
Gallon of Premium: $3.75
Gas Consumed Annually: 4.88 billion gallons
Number of Vehicles: 6.3 million

Virginia's Atlantic beaches are close to both Washington and Baltimore, and the Shenandoah Valley and Blue Ridge Mountains also feature a number of resorts. It boasts a number of Civil War battlefields, including famous Antietam.

4. Mississippi
Gallon of Regular: $3.46
Gallon of Premium: $3.70
Gas Consumed Annually: 2.13 billion gallons
Number of Vehicles: 2.03 million

Mississippi's casinos are a mecca for gamblers, particularly from nearby states. Among the state's many Civil War battlefields, the most well-known is probably Vicksburg. Tourists also congregate in the towns along the Mississippi River, at sport and fishing destinations such May's Lake.

3. Tennessee
Gallon of Regular: $3.45
Gallon of Premium: $3.71
Gas Consumed Annually: 3.99 billion gallons
Number of Vehicles: 5.14 million

The state offers a number of popular hiking and camping areas in the the Appalachian Mountains. Indeed, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is among the most visited in the country. For those who want to stay in cities, Nashville is the center of the nation's country music industry. Memphis, another country music destination, is also home to The National Civil Rights Museum.

2. South Carolina
Gallon of Regular: $3.39
Gallon of Premium: $3.65
Gas Consumed Annually: 3.36 billion gallons
Number of Vehicles: 3.61 million

South Carolina's Atlantic coast is home to a number of seaside resorts and some of the world's greatest golf courses. Congaree National Park is well-known for hiking and camping. And, just across the border in Georgia lies Savannah, of the great cities of the South. Its historic district features many large homes and mansions, some of which are nearly 200 years old.

1. Arizona
Gallon of Regular: $3.37
Gallon of Premium: $3.57
Gas Consumed Annually: 3.37 billion gallons
Number of Vehicles: 4.36 million

Arizona is the only state on this list which is not part of the South. Its attraction is due in part to the pleasant climate. Arizona is also home to several national parks and forests, and of course, the Grand Canyon. Budding archaeologists will be interested in the Anasazi, Hohokam, Mogollon and Salado tribal excavations.

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I filled my truck on Friday to the tune of $3.96/gal at my local gas station. I guess the western states are exempt from cheaper gas. Oh, I live in Washington state in a rural area.

September 04 2011 at 8:17 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Let me see, what were gasoline prices when the Marxists posing as progressive socialist liberal democrats took control of Congress, the economy and the purse strings of this country in Nov 2006 and what were they when Obama was elected in November 2008, Did you have a job then? What was the stock market at then? Was your house being foreclosed on or was your house under water? Were your retirement accounts decimated? Was governement spending you, your kids and their kids into the poor house as a third world country? Were you afraid you would lose your job? What was the unemployment rats in Nov 2006. Were you being lied to by a fearful, egomaniacal full of pride Jive Turkey on TV 3 times a week blaming you for the problems he caused?

Don't wonder just know what these folks do every time they have any power at all. It has been 35 years since Jimmy Carter and his left wing henchmen destroyed the country and the voters tossed them on the trash heap of failure. Now they are doing it again - just like last time. It's time to take out the garbage again,

September 04 2011 at 2:49 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Well, to be truthful, your elected officials did borrow 40% of the cost for their very generous private retirement and health plans (when SS and Medicare weren't good enough for them) from the Chinese but they did stick you with the debt for it. These folks are just peachy. I'm guessing they will end up blaming you for it as usual.

September 02 2011 at 6:31 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

Well, the reason our representative sand senators stole the gas tax to build airports instead of maintaining roads is because they wanted an airport next to where they lived so when they flew home from Washington it wouldn't be a hassle for them. If they tried to pass 'an airport for your elected official tax' they knew they would be tarred and feathered but that didn't stop them did it?

You don't want to know where they spent your SS tax money that was supposedly in a trust lock box. They spent it on private retirement health insurance and retirement plans for themselves. You know, the ones they said were no good for you as they opted themselves out of SS and Medicare knowing full well they had created Ponzi schemes for us that were doomed to financial failure. With people like this who are supposedly looking out for us we would be better off letting al-Queda do it instead.

September 02 2011 at 6:22 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

How many people know that the federal take on teh gas tax per gallon at 18 cents is much more then the oil comoany makes in profit per gallon? The state tax is at least twice the federal tax as well. How many people know that the gasoline tax hasn't even been used for the upkeep of roads but to build airports The gas tax needs to go once and for all and they can take the death tax with it,

September 02 2011 at 6:10 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

My Labor Day trip if I go will be a business trip primarily.

September 01 2011 at 11:47 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

There are plenty of Civil War Battlefields in Virginia, but Antietam is not one of them. The last time I checked, Antietam was in Maryland.

September 01 2011 at 11:26 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to hcondyles's comment

You are right! The mistake is further proof of how poorly American history is taught. No wonder too many Americans can"t pass the citizenship exam.

September 01 2011 at 11:45 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

85% of high school seniors can not place Maryland on a map and don't care to either. They just want a job provided for them where they do not have to do anything but will still somehow make them millionaires by the time they are 22. If they have to wait to 25 they aren't even interested. in not working at work and would rather just stay in their parents basement, eating pizz, drinking beer and smoking dope. Makes one envious doesn't it?

September 02 2011 at 2:38 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

people should make sure they know what they are talking about before they write their little uniformed statements

September 01 2011 at 9:44 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

sorry you are wrong! i live between phila and the shore areas of nj., less than 1/2 tank of gas and about 100 miles of beach,boardwalks, casinos,museums,baseball parks, cradle of liberty.
oh and btw nj gas is 3.35 today and we dont have to even pump it ourselves!!!!!!!!

September 01 2011 at 9:02 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Everyone know correct Obama did not let the Gas tax run out so gas prices will not fall either. What a Joke this president and this should be the news not what is in this stupid Reporting. UGH.

September 01 2011 at 7:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply