It’s going to be another busy Memorial Day weekend on the nation’s highways.
From Thursday through Monday, 31.2 million Americans will drive 50 miles or more to a beach, campground or other getaway, according to car lobbying group AAA. That’s a small increase from last year but still well short of the record 37.3 million people who drove during the holiday in 2005.
Gas will cost slightly more this year. The national average price for a gallon of gasoline has risen 7 cents in the past week to $3.66 and could increase over the weekend. Gas averaged $3.64 last Memorial Day. Still, the price isn’t expected to reach the 2011 Memorial Day average of $3.79.
The total number of holiday travelers should decline almost 1% to 34.8 million, AAA says, because fewer will choose to fly. AAA estimates that 2.3 million travelers will take to the skies, down 8% from last year.
“American travelers are experiencing fee fatigue and frustration with everything from higher fares to airport security. As a result, many are choosing road travel,” Robert L. Darbelnet, CEO of AAA, said in a statement.
The airline industry’s lobbying group – Airlines for America – said it expects a typical Memorial Day weekend and sees overall summer traffic increasing by 1%.
The average domestic roundtrip airfare for June, July and August is $421, down $6 or 1.4% from last summer, according to the Airlines Reporting Corp., which processes almost half of all airline tickets sold in the U.S.
The travel forecast done by IHS Global Insight for AAA – one of the nation’s largest leisure travel agencies – is based on interviews with 306 Americans and factors in estimates about the overall health of the economy.
In 2012, AAA underestimated the number of people driving on Memorial Day by 400,000. Part of the reason is that its report is prepared more than a month prior to the holiday. Last year, gas prices fell more than 20 cents a gallon during that period. This year, there was a rebound in measures of consumers’ confidence in the economy that occurred after the AAA report was finalized, which could indicate a few more Americans will travel than AAA predicts.
Another 1.3 million travelers are estimated by AAA to take buses, trains, ferries and other forms of travel, down 12% from last Memorial Day.
Fewer Americans plan to launch their summer season behind the wheel of an automobile this year, but a bump in air travel plans suggests that, overall, more people intend to get away from home this summer.
The high price of gas will deter some people from driving over Memorial Day weekend, the traditional kickoff of summer in the United States, according to a national survey by AAA.
Forty percent of would-be travelers said that gas prices would have an impact on their vacation planning, although nine out of 10 who said they would be traveling planned to do so by car.
A minuscule uptick in the overall number of people who are making Memorial Day weekend travel plans was attributed to increases in air travel.
Last year, a 14% overall jump in the number of travelers was seen as an indication that the country was emerging from recession.
“This year, we expect to add slightly to that gain due to an increase in air travel and an improvement in the overall domestic economic picture,” said AAA President Robert L. Darbelnet.
As the airlines try to rebound from a dreadful profit year in 2010, there are worries that fuel costs could drive up ticket prices.