AAA projects 36.1 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more from home during the Memorial Day Travel weekend, a 1.5 percent increase from the 35.5 million people who traveled a year ago.
While segments of the economy are mending more slowly than anticipated, improvements in disposable income, consumer spending and in the employment outlook should be enough to boost the 2014 Memorial Day travel above the most recent ten-year average.
“We sense that Idahoans, too, have a little cabin fever and are ready to hit the roads, skyways and byways to kick off the summer travel season,” said AAA Idaho spokesman Dave Carlson.
AAA announced today that Memorial Day travel is expected to reach a new post-recession high with 36.1 million Americans taking a trip of fifty miles or more from home during a holiday period defined as Thursday, May 22 to Monday, May 26.
Closer to home, AAA says travel in the Mountain Region (AZ, CO, ID, MT, NM, NV, UT, WY) is expected to increase by 0.05 percent, with 2.7 million taking trips.
The travel organization says nearly nine in ten travelers—or 31.8 million—will go by car, an increase of 400,000 from the 2013 Memorial Day holiday period.
AAA expects 7.1 percent of all holiday travelers will fly. That accounts for 2.6 million leisure travelers, a 2.4 percent increase over last year’s numbers.
Travel by other modes of transportation including cruise, trains, and buses will see the largest increase, up 6.5 percent from a year ago. That category will account for 1.7 million travelers.
Improvements in income, consumer confidence and employment are welcome news to the travel industry, says Doreen Loofburrow, Vice President of Travel for AAA Oregon/Idaho. “We are seeing an increase in travel for the year, and we’re seeing quite a bit of interest in Memorial Day trips.”
Subhed: Impact of gas prices on travel plans
With plans already made and budgets set, it’s unlikely that gas prices will have a significant impact on holiday travel. AAA expects that gas prices will likely be relatively similar or even a bit less than last year’s prices on Memorial Day when the national average for regular was $3.63 and Idaho’s average was $3.70.
If there’s a spike in gas prices leading up to the holiday weekend, consumers will likely just allocate more of their budgets towards travel expenses and economize in other areas.
Nationally, the average price appears to have hit a seasonal peak two weeks ago. Since then, the national average price has dropped about a nickel.
Idaho’s average pump price, which has trailed the national average for the entire year, today is just half a cent under the national mark. The current national average is $3.647, while Idaho’s average price is $3.642. Idaho’s average price has risen about a quarter a gallon in the past thirty days.
Here’s a look at Idaho’s average price per gallon for regular grade fuel in prior years for Memorial Day: 2011, $3.73; 2012, $3.81; 2013, $3.70.