AAA predicts slight increase in Memorial Day travel
The American Automobile Association (AAA) projects the number of Americans traveling the Memorial Day holiday will increase 1.5 percent from a year ago with nearly 32.4 million travelers taking a trip 50 miles or more from home.
"Lower gas prices and good travel deals will trump the effects of this year's poor economy when it comes to Memorial Day travel," said AAA Idaho spokesman Dave Carlson. "Right now, Idaho's gas prices are nearly $1.50 lower than they were a year ago, and the travel industry has sharpened its pencils to offer travel deals that will encourage more folks to hit the road."
Based AAA's Daily Fuel Gauge Report (www.fuelgaugereport.com), Idaho's average price for regular grade gasoline is $2.21, up 20 cents in the past month, but well below the $3.66 price from a year ago. The national average price is $2.25, up 17 cents in the just the past week, but $1.47 lower than the $3.72 average price from a year ago.
The travel organization said gas and oil prices are rising on modestly positive global news that some investors interpret as a waning recession. That, coupled with the traditional spring-summer price bump, were among factors said to be contributing to the recent retail gasoline price spike.
AAA said most people traveling over the Memorial Day holiday will do so by car, with some 27 million - or nearly 83 percent of all travelers - planning a road trip. This is an increase from last Memorial Day when 26.3 million travelers paid among the highest fuel prices on record to travel by motor vehicle.
The predictions are based on a national survey of Americans, actual prior travel trends and advanced modeling by IHS Global Insight, based in Boston.
"Markets can and do change, but this summer's prices should be nowhere near where they were a year ago," Carlson said. The last Memorial Day holiday when gas prices were at or near the current price was in 2005, according to AAA.
Trips by air are expected to decline by one percent for the Memorial Day period. Approximately 2.1 million Americans will fly to their destination, representing about seven percent of all travelers. Trips by other modes, including rail, bus and other forms will account for an estimated 3.3 million Americans, or 10 percent of all travelers.
Lower Gas and Travel Costs
According to AAA's Leisure Travel Index, airfares over the Memorial Day holiday weekend are expected to decrease four percent from last year as air passengers will pay an average $176. However, lower gas prices will encourage more travel by motor vehicle. In addition, there is less capacity available on air carriers this year.
Car rental rates will drop lower with consumers paying an average of $43 per day compared to $45 a year ago, a decrease of three percent. Hotel rates for AAA Three Diamond lodgings are expected to be 12 percent lower than last year with travelers spending an average of $142 per night.
"2009 is proving to be the year of the travel bargain, and when you combine the great values with fewer crowds, your vacation may be the relaxing escape you're looking for," said Doreen Loofburrow, Director of Travel for AAA Oregon//Idaho. "Las Vegas and Hawaii resort rates are down 15 to 20 percent from last year, and seven-day cruises are as little as $78 per day."
Despite modest increases in most of the nine regions tracked by AAA, auto travel in the Mountain region, which includes Idaho, will be down by 1.7 percent. However, a larger share of the population in the region (10.2 percent) compared to the national average (9.1 percent) will be traveling by car.
AAA Idaho estimates that 155,450 Idahoans will be passengers or drivers in motor vehicles traveling more than 50 miles during the holiday period. That's about 3,000 less than a year ago.
AAA says the average distance traveled by Americans this Memorial Day holiday weekend is forecast to be approximately 620 miles. This is a slight decrease from 2008 when the average distance traveled was expected to be 640 miles. Nearly 60 percent of Americans will spend time with friends and relatives over the holiday, and traveling as a family will be the most popular way to go with 34 percent of travelers making a journey with children or other family members.
"Consistent with longer term trends, and based on anecdotal information from our travel planners, we believe Idaho travelers will opt for camping trips and outdoor activities close to home," Carlson said.