AAA is estimating 34.9 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more this Memorial Day holiday weekend, an increase of 0.2 percent from 2010. Last year, 34.8 million Americans traveled during the same period.
Despite higher gas prices compared to last year, steady economic growth, rising employment and increasing consumer confidence are positively promoting overall travel increases, including the Memorial Day weekend.
“Consumers are eager to kick off the summer travel season after a harsh winter,” said Jim Hanni, executive vice president for public and government affairs at AAA. “Travelers will be packing up their car as well as heading to the airport to take advantage of travel deals and to visit friends and family this holiday weekend.”
Approximately 31 million Americans nationwide will hit the road to reach their holiday destination, accounting for 88 percent of travelers. Drivers will be fueling up with regular gasoline prices hovering around $3.80 per gallon in Kansas, down 6 cents from last week, but up $1.06 from last year. Many consumers will compensate for higher gas prices by remaining frugal in other areas of their travel budgets such as dining, entertainment and lodging.
Air travel will increase by 11.5 percent. Approximately 2.93 million Americans will fly to holiday destinations this year compared to 2.63 million in 2010. Growth in air travel this holiday period is attributed to overall economic improvement since 2010. Travel by air accounts for 8.4 percent of travelers nationwide. An estimated three percent of travelers across the country will take advantage of other modes of transportation, including rail, buses and watercraft.
Additional information regarding Memorial Day travel trends and behavior includes:
* Spending is expected to average $692 per trip, a decrease of 14 percent from $809 last year;
* Average distance traveled by Americans will be approximately 792 miles, an increase of 27 percent over last year’s average distance of 626 miles;
* Memorial Day holiday weekend airfare is expected to increase by 14 percent compared to last year with the lowest round-trip fare averaging $201 per ticket;
* Car rental rates will increase slightly to $38 per day compared to $37 a day last Memorial Day weekend;
* Hotel rates for AAA Three Diamond properties are expected to be slightly higher averaging $148 per night, a five percent increase compared to 2010’s average of $142 per night.
AAA’s projections are based on research conducted by IHS Global Insight. The Boston-based economic research and consulting firm teamed with AAA in 2010 as part of an agreement to jointly analyze travel trends during the major holidays. AAA has been reporting on holiday travel trends for more than two decades.
For purposes of this forecast, the Memorial Day holiday travel period is defined as trips that include travel of 50 miles or more from home in one direction during the period from Thursday, May 26th to Monday, May 31st.