Traveling? Expect Heavy Memorial Day Weekend Traffic

traffic gsp tls (4)If you are traveling for the weekend, give yourself extra time. AAA Travel projects 36.1 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more from home during Memorial Day weekend, a 1.5 percent increase from the 35.5 million people who traveled last year. Kicking off the summer driving season, more than eight in ten travelers will be driving to their destinations.  The Memorial Day holiday travel period is defined as Thursday, May 22 to Monday, May 26.

Highlights from 2014 Memorial Day Travel Forecast include:

  • Memorial Day holiday travel volume is expected to reach a new post-recession high with 36.1 million Americans taking a trip
  • The 2014 forecast is 2.6 percent higher than the ten-year historical average and the second highest travel volume since 2000
  • Eighty-eight percent of travelers (31.8 million) to travel by automobile, an increase from 31.4 million last year
  • Travel by other modes of transportation including cruise, trains and buses will see the largest increase, up 6.5 percent (total 1.7 million travelers)
  • Holiday air travel expected to rise 2.4 percent to 2.6 million leisure travelers
  • Travelers will encounter slightly higher prices with airfares six percent higher, mid-range hotels up two percent and car rentals costing one percent more

“Warmer weather is finally here, but the brutal winter weather and record breaking snowfall totals are still fresh in our minds,” said Tracy E. Noble, spokesperson for AAA Mid-Atlantic.  During the unusually harsh winter, AAA experienced an increase of nearly 12 percent in battery related calls thanks to the icy temperatures.  “The winter blues and severe cabin fever have given Americans the travel bug as travel for the Memorial Day holiday is expected to hit a new post-recession high.”

Improved weather and better economic factors are driving the expectation for more holiday travelers this year. “Consumer spending, disposable income, consumer confidence and the employment outlook are trending up which is welcomed news for the travel industry,” continued Noble.  Economic factors influenced by weather, such as car and home sales, appear to be resolving themselves now.

Impact of gasoline prices on travel plans

AAA expects lower gas prices by Memorial Day weekend, due to rising supplies. Holiday gas prices should be similar to, or even slightly less than, last year’s national Memorial Day average of $3.63 per gallon, though unexpected developments such as refinery problems or international events could result in higher costs. But with many plans already made and budgets set, it is unlikely that gas prices will have a significant effect on travel plans compared to a year ago. 

Travel expenses rise, especially airfare

According to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, airfares are experiencing the largest price hike. The average round-trip, discounted fares for the top 40 U.S. routes have increased six percent to $227 from $215 last year.

Hotel rates for AAA Three Diamond lodgings are expected to increase just two percent, with to $169 per night compared to $166 last year. The average cost for AAA Two Diamond hotels is up three percent, at $124 per night.

Weekend daily car rental rates will average $44, only one percent higher than last year.

AAA offers digital travel planning resources

AAA’s digital tools include TourBook guides for tablets and smartphones, available free to members at AAA.com/ebooks. The free AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android uses GPS navigation to help travelers map a route, find current gas prices and discounts, book a hotel, and access AAA roadside assistance. Members using the iPad version can access interactive Top Destinations travel guides for 10 popular cities. Travelers can learn more at AAA.com/mobile. [TLS]

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