According to an AAA study, the number of Americans due to travel 50 miles or more from home over the Memorial Day holiday weekend will rise 1.2% (500,000 people) from 34.3 million last year to 34.8 million this year. This travel period includes Thursday, May 24 through Monday, May 28. Most of these people will be travelling by car, with a 1.2% increase from 30.3 million last year to about 30.7 million this year planning to be on the road.
The AAA predicts that 88% of holiday travellers will take to US roads during the holiday weekend, which means car travel will be the main mode of transport. In a survey, the organisation found that 53% of respondents said the recent rise in fuel prices won’t impact their travel plans for the holiday. Of the other 47% who said the prices will impact their plans, 4% said they will take another form of transport, 9% said they plan to take a shorter trip and 34% said they will economise in other areas. Of those who plan to economise, 27% will stay in a hotel that includes amenities like free internet and breakfast, 31% will stay with friends and relatives rather than reserve a hotel room, 34% will stay at a cheaper hotel, and 65% will reduce spending on entertainment.
US fuel prices peaked in April despite highs for the season in early spring, when drivers experienced average price increases every day in February and March (except four days). A full reversal was experienced in April with prices falling 23 of 30 days over the month. This helped break a streak of 911 days since the national average was lower than last year. The current average price for regular petrol is about 25 cents less per gallon than the same time last year.
As for air travel, the AAA is predicting that over 2.5 million people will fly over the weekend for the holiday – which is more than 7% of holiday travellers. This is a 5.5% decline from the 2.7 million air travellers recorded for last year. The other 4.5% of holiday travellers are due to travel by rail, bus, boat or other modes of transport.
The AAA survey has also predicted that the average distance that Americans will travel over the weekend will be 642 miles. This is 150 miles less than last year, when the average distance was 792 miles. Consumers are responding to high petrol prices by travelling shorter distances. Meanwhile, the decline in air travel is a factor in the average distance decrease, as fewer flying miles are contrasted with the slight increase in road travel. Air miles are typically longer than those driven, with the shortest trips last year being less than 150 miles – which was 19% of total travel, compared to 21% this year. This has supported the prediction that shorter trips are particularly popular this holiday weekend.
AAA president and chief executive Robert L. Darbelnet says the overall domestic economic picture continues to slightly improve. However, consumers faced the new challenge of steadily increasing fuel prices throughout the spring, which substantially squeezed many budgets. Americans will still travel for Memorial Day weekend, but many will compensate for less spending by staying closer to home and reducing how much they spend on entertainment, he added.
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