AAA Reports Gas Prices Won’t Cause Decrease in Labor Day Travel

MINNEAPOLIS, Aug. 23 /PRNewswire/ — Despite national record-high gas prices averaging more than $2.61 per gallon, AAA expects no let up in travel for the Labor Day holiday weekend. An estimated 34.5 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home this holiday, a 0.9 percent increase from the 34.2 million who traveled last year.

Approximately 28.8 million travelers (83 percent of all holiday travelers) expect to go by motor vehicle, about even with the 28.7 million who drove a year ago. Another 4 million (12 percent) plan to travel by airplane, up from the 3.9 million that flew last Labor Day holiday. A projected 1.7 million vacationers (5 percent) will go by train, bus or other mode of transportation, up from about 1.6 million a year ago.

“Labor Day marks the end of an eventful and surprisingly strong summer travel season,” said Wendy Weigel, vice president-Travel, AAA Minneapolis. “We’ve seen record high gas prices, an early start to hurricane season, terror attacks in London and continued weakness by the dollar, but Americans have traveled nonetheless.”

“Travel will be up slightly this Labor Day, although the increase is smaller than what we’ve witnessed the last several holidays,” added Gail Weinholzer, spokesperson, AAA Minnesota/Iowa. “Both record high gas prices and the increasing number of school systems nationwide that start before Labor Day play a part in this lesser increase.”

The forecast 0.9 percent increase for this Labor Day is the smallest expected rise since the 1.8 percent increase set on Memorial Day 2003, when holiday travel began to rebound after the 9/11 attacks and Iraq invasion. In 2004, Labor Day travel increased by 2.4 percent over the previous year.

Holiday auto travelers will find gas prices nationwide currently averaging $2.61 for a gallon of self-serve regular gasoline, up nearly 32 cents from a month ago and 73 cents higher than last year.

AAA’s Leisure Travel Index shows other vacation costs up from Labor Day 2004, too. Hotel rates have increased, averaging 8 percent higher for AAA-rated Three Diamond hotels for the 20 top destinations used in the comparison. Airfares are up about 8 percent. Car rental rates also have increased, but not by as much – about 5 percent.

“With many vacation costs up this holiday weekend, travelers should shop around and use discounts to find the best hotel value,” said Weigel. “Even though gasoline still will make up a relatively small part of many families’ travel expenses, it’s worth taking steps to save on gasoline and improve fuel economy to soften the sting of the highest ever summer gas prices.”

AAA’s gas saving tips for vacation travelers include:

— Drive your most fuel efficient vehicle that works for your trip;
— Keep your car well-maintained by keeping tires properly inflated and
having a professional technician inspect your vehicle before you go;
— Take the most direct route by getting directions with AAA’s Internet
TripTik or from public Web sites like http://www.aaamaps.com/ ;
— Shop around for the least expensive gas by watching prices before you
need to fill-up;
— Use a credit card that pays a rebate on gas purchases; and
— Drive gently, since excessive braking and accelerating reduces fuel
economy, as does driving faster than highway speed limits.

The most Labor Day travelers will originate in the West with 8.9 million, followed by the Southeast with 8.1 million; Midwest, 6.3 million; Northeast, 6.0 million; and Great Lakes, 5.1 million.

The West is expected to produce the most holiday travelers by auto, truck or RV, with 7.2 million, followed by the Southeast with 6.7 million; the Midwest with 5.5 million; the Northeast with 4.9 million; and the Great Lakes with 4.5 million.

The West is also expected to produce the largest number of air travelers with 1.5 million, followed by the Southeast at 1.2 million; the Northeast and Great Lakes at 500,000 each; and the Midwest at 300,000.

Towns/rural areas top the list of preferred destinations this holiday with 23 percent of travel volume. Oceans/beach remains strong for summer’s last hurrah, with 21 percent. Cities rank next, with 18 percent, followed by mountain areas, 11 percent; lake areas, 9 percent; state/national parks, 8 percent; and theme/amusement parks, 4 percent. Another 4 percent responded with other, and 2 percent said they didn’t know.

The higher hotel rates coincide with strong demand for hotel rooms, with 39 percent of the total Labor Day travelers expecting to stay at a hotel/motel. Friends’ and relatives’ homes rank second, with 32 percent; followed by camper/trailer/RV/tent, 14 percent; rented cabin/condo, 7 percent; and own cabin/condo, 4 percent. Another 1 percent responded with other; no overnight stay, 1 percent; and didn’t know, 2 percent.

Research for holiday travel is based on a national telephone survey of 1,300 adults by the Travel Industry Association of America, which conducts special research for AAA.

AAA ( http://www.aaa.com/ ) offers automotive, travel, insurance and financial services to more than 45 million members in the United States and Canada. AAA Minnesota/Iowa is part of The Auto Club Group, with 4.1 million members in eight Midwest states. AAA Minneapolis serves more than 175,000 members in Hennepin County.

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