“The prices have been so volatile,” Montgomery said. “But any time you’re talking about higher than $3 a gallon in the rest of the country, something else is going on.” Experts blamed tight supplies with several refineries shut down for maintenance and market speculation bidding up crude oil futures for the next two months. But if past patterns hold true, gas prices will continue surging at least until mid-summer, when they’re expected to level off, Montgomery said. Then they’ll surge again in August and September until demand drops late in the year, give or take geopolitics or another hurricane. “It seems like every time you get to a new level that’s intolerable, it goes back down a little, then they go back up even higher,” Montgomery said. “It’s hard to budget.” Still, the number of locals expected to travel over the three-day weekend is a 1.6 percent increase compared to last year, the auto club said. That includes 80 percent who will travel by car, or a 1.7 percent jump from a year ago. Meanwhile, some 455,000 will fly to their destinations. Statewide, close to 5 million are expected to hit the road – 4.1 million by wheel and nearly 730,000 by air. Josh Orendain, 20, of Pacoima is only heading to Vasquez Rocks County Park – just 42 miles north – for a weekend hiking trip. Gas prices often enter into his road-trip decisions, whether it’s the beach or to a concert, he said. “Sometimes you have to wonder if it’s really worth it,” he said. “I thought about going to Coachella (music festival in Indio). It would cost $40 in gas, and the tickets are already $150. … It makes me feel like they should have electric cars already.” Danny Maimone, 41, of Santa Clarita is planning to fly a leg in his summer family trip to tour the Midwest. “We’re flying to Salt Lake City, then driving to Mount Rushmore and Yellowstone National Park,” he said. “That’s why we’re flying – hopefully, the gas prices will be lower there. If it weren’t for that, we would probably drive to Salt Lake to see the sights along the way.” But Patrick Greene, 34, of Northridge said he’s heading to Pismo Beach along the Central Coast for the weekend, and he doesn’t mind the higher prices. And it’s not because he drives a diesel pickup truck. “I kind of hope prices will go up to maybe seven, eight dollars,” he said. “Then maybe people will drive less and there won’t be as much traffic. … It’s the price you pay to live here.” [email protected] (818) 546-3304 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Of the 3.1 million Southlanders vacationing this holiday weekend, according to the Automobile Club of Southern California, some are coping by taking shorter trips, while others are mixing in air travel to keep the family budget in check. “The only thing that people can control is their own behavior,” said Marie Montgomery, an auto club spokeswoman. “There are people who are looking at buying more efficient vehicles… because they are seeing that this is something that’s not going away.” Indeed, the national average for a gallon of regular unleaded hit a record $3.19 Monday, according to an AAA survey of 85,000 self-serve stations, exceeding the previous record of $3 a gallon set in September 2005 amid refinery shutdowns due to Hurricane Katrina. In California, the average for a gallon of regular statewide was $3.45, up 8 cents from a year ago (and about 38 cents higher than in Texas). In the L.A.-Long Beach area, the average also was $3.45, or about 6 cents higher than the same period last year. Meanwhile, the federal Energy Information Administration placed the national average price for a gallon of regular at $3.22, which equals the all-time high of March 1981 during the Iraq-Iran conflict, when a gallon cost the same after adjusting for inflation. SHERMAN OAKS – For Memorial Day weekend, Daniel Carpenter is heading into the heart of Texas – and he’s not coming back. “California is too expensive,” said Carpenter, 55, of Agoura Hills, who is planning a one-way, 1,400-mile trip to a suburb of Austin, where he will retire. “Over there, gas is at least 40 cents cheaper,” he said Monday, gassing up his Honda minivan at a Sherman Oaks station where a gallon of regular unleaded cost $3.43. “They’re pricing me out of the market. I don’t even drive my RV over here. I just park it in Texas.” But short of moving out of state, most Californians have resolved to live with higher-than-average gasoline costs. And they’re tightening their belts by yet another notch as prices climb to record highs with the start of the summer travel season this weekend.