Nearly 35 million travelers expected to kick off the summer travel season with a getaway
AAA projects 34.8 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more from home during the Memorial Day holiday weekend, a 0.9 percent decrease from the 35.1 million people who traveled last year. The Memorial Day holiday travel period is defined as Thursday, May 23, to Monday, May 27.
"AAA is forecasting Memorial Day travel to experience a slight dip as lower gas prices and economic improvements from last year are not strong enough to spur an increase in travelers," said Tony Spada, president and CEO of AAA Western and Central New York. "Despite the decline, travel volumes are expected to remain above historical averages as millions of Americans will kick off the summer travel season by creating special memories with a vacation getaway."
Highlights from 2013 Memorial Day travel forecast include:
•Memorial Day holiday travelers to total 34.8 million, a decrease of 0.9 percent from the 35.1 million who traveled last year.
•Eighty-nine percent of travelers (31.2 million) to travel by automobile, an increase from 31.1 million last year.
•Holiday air travel expected to decrease 8 percent to 2.3 million from 2.5 million in 2012.
•Median spending is expected to decrease more than 6 percent to $659, compared to $702 in 2012.
•Travelers intend to journey an average of 690 miles, which is higher than last year's average of 642 miles.
•Memorial Day holiday travel volume is expected to remain above the 12-year historical average of 34.7 million
"Other factors affecting the forecast include slow economic growth and, now four years removed from the recessionary declines of 2009, pent-up demand has been largely satisfied," Spada said.
Automobile travel expected to increase
Approximately 31.2 million people plan to drive to their destination, an increase of 0.25 percent from the 31.1 million who drove last year. Almost nine out of 10 holiday travelers (89 percent) will take to the nation's roadways during the Memorial Day weekend, keeping automobile travel in the traditional lead as the dominant mode of holiday travel transportation.
Air travelers to decline by 8 percent
More than 2.3 million leisure air travelers (about 7 percent of holiday travelers) will arrive at their destination by air, an 8 percent decrease from last year's 2.5 million air travelers. The remaining 4 percent of holiday travelers are expected to travel by other modes, including rail, bus and watercraft.
Impact of gasoline prices on travel plans
A survey of intended travelers found that gasoline prices would have no impact on plans for 62 percent of travelers. Of the remaining 38 percent of travelers who said gas prices would impact their travel plans, 27 percent plan to economize in other areas. Eight percent are planning to take a shorter trip and 3 percent will travel by an alternate mode of transportation.
Since national gas prices peaked at the end of February, motorists nationwide have felt welcome relief at the pump. The current average price for a gallon of regular gasoline in New York is $3.75 per gallon, approximately 19 cents lower than this time last year. In Buffalo, the average price is $3.75 per gallon, down 20 cents from 2012.
Average travel distance increases
The average distance traveled by Americans during the Memorial Day holiday weekend is expected to be 690 miles, which is 48 miles more than last year's average of 642 miles.
Median spending is expected to decrease as travelers prioritize family and friends
Median spending during the Memorial Day holiday weekend is expected to be $659, 6 percent less than the $702 median spending last year. Transportation is expected to consume approximately 28 cents of every dollar. Travelers expect to spend 22 percent on food and beverage and 20 percent on lodging.
During the holiday weekend, more than half of intending travelers will plan to partake in visiting with friends/family (59 percent) and dining (55 percent). Other popular activities include shopping (44 percent), going to the beach (32 percent) and touring and sightseeing (27 percent).
Car rental, hotel and airfare rates rise
According to AAA's leisure travel index, hotel rates for AAA Three Diamond lodgings are expected to increase more than 4 percent from one year ago with travelers spending an average of $166 per night compared to $160 last year. The average hotel rate for AAA Two Diamond hotels remained unchanged with an average cost of $120 per night. Weekend daily car rental rates will average $43, up 19 percent from last year.
For the Memorial Day holiday period, the lowest round-trip airfare is $215 for the top 40 U.S. air routes, a 10 percent increase from last year.
As upstate New York's largest member services organization, AAA provides nearly 860,000 members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive related services. Since its founding in 1900, AAA has been a leading advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. Visit AAA at www.AAA.com.