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

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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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