Travel to increase on holiday weekend

Published 7:56 pm Wednesday, May 13, 2009

More than 32 million people are expected to travel this Memorial Day weekend nationwide — about 1.5 percent more than in 2008, AAA predicts.

Last year, 31.9 million Americans traveled during the same time period, a sharp decline from the 35.3 million in 2007.

“Last year, soaring gas prices and a deteriorating economy resulted in far fewer trips being taken than had been forecasted,” said Clay Ingram, AAA Alabama spokesman. “The good news is sharply lower gasoline prices and plentiful travel bargains have Americans feeling better about taking a road trip this summer, which should help tourism-based economic activity throughout the nation.”

Close to 83 percent of all Memorial Day weekend travelers will travel by automobile. That statistic represents about 27 million people, an increase from last year’s 26.3 million motorists.

The average price of regular unleaded gasoline is expected to peak at $2.50 per gallon, according to AAA. Alabama’s current average is $2.15 per gallon, compared with the national average of $2.26.

Trips by air will decline by about 1 percent this year, with approximately 2.1 million people — 7 percent of total travelers — flying to their Memorial Day weekend destinations. The average airfare will be about $176, a 4-percent decrease from last year.

Ten percent of travelers will opt for other modes of transportation, including rail, buses and watercraft. About 3.3 million Americans are represented in these categories.

Americans will travel an average distance of 620 miles this year and will spend about $1,052 on average. Nearly 60 percent will spend Memorial Day with friends and relatives, with 34 percent traveling with children or other family members.