1.3 Million Plan Memorial Day Trip, Says AAA Michigan Travel Survey

Gas prices will influence travel plans

DEARBORN, Mich., May 2 /PRNewswire/ — An estimated 1.3 million Michiganians will travel during the upcoming Memorial Day weekend, launching the start of the 2005 summer travel season, says a recent AAA Michigan travel survey of 400 state residents. Among those with travel plans during the holiday weekend, 39 percent also have other summer travel plans.

Some 200,000 more people have travel plans for the upcoming holiday, compared with last year’s 1.1 million who had advance travel plans.

Thirty-seven percent of those planning a trip this Memorial Day said changes in gasoline prices will influence their travel plans. In response to high prices, these travelers said they would drive fewer miles or decrease the number of days away from home. As of May 2, the statewide average for self- serve, regular gasoline was $2.268 — 41.6 cents more per gallon than a year ago.

Hardest hit by fuel costs this year is the trailer/RV/camping segment. Only 4 percent of Michigan residents surveyed said they would use this type of accommodation in 2005, compared with 27 percent last year.

“This year’s survey shows that the economy and high gas prices continue to affect domestic travel plans in Michigan,” said Claire Lockley, assistant vice president Travel Product Management for The Auto Club Group. “When we look beyond Memorial Day to the overall summer travel season, we see a strong increase relative to 2004, particularly with cruises and with international tour packages.”

Lockley added that international tours booked by AAA Travel Agency were up 14 percent over the previous year in April and cruise sales were up 18 percent for the same time period.

Among those not planning a Memorial Day trip when the survey was taken, 60 percent said they had no plans yet, compared with 29 percent last year — an indication that significantly more travelers have adopted a “wait-and-see” approach to the 2005 Memorial Day holiday vacation period.

Among those not planning a Memorial Day trip this year, the most commonly cited reasons were money concerns (9 percent), gas prices (5 percent) and the economy (5 percent).

Sixteen percent of those with Memorial Day travel plans said they planned to go by air, compared with 9 percent last year. Seventy-five percent of Memorial Day holiday travelers expect to travel more than 100 miles and 29 percent plan to leave Michigan.

For state residents planning a summer vacation in Michigan, the five most popular driving destinations are: 1) Mackinaw City, 2) Traverse City, 3) Muskegon, 4) Sault Ste. Marie, and 5) Detroit (based on AAA TripTik(R) requests).

Michiganians leaving the state by vehicle prefer 1) Niagara Falls, 2) Chicago, 3) Washington, D.C., 4) Orlando, and 5) Las Vegas.

Residents planning to leave the state by air prefer:
* Las Vegas
* Orlando
* The Caribbean
* Alaska
* Europe

AAA Michigan’s survey contacted 400 Michigan residents. Respondents provided these insights into Memorial Day travel:

* Heavy traffic is a concern for a large percentage of those who plan to travel (43 percent, up from 36 percent last year), most of whom will leave earlier than they usually do, and others who plan to take an alternate route.

* The majority (75 percent) will travel by car, truck or van. Sixteen percent will travel by air.

* Weather is not a major consideration for most travelers. Seventy-five percent said they would never cancel trip plans due to rain or cold weather.

* Rented cottages or homes are the most popular accommodation in 2005. Other alternatives include:

Type of Accommodation 2005 2004
Hotel/Motel/Resort 22% 11%
Relatives 18% 9%
Second home 14% 7%
Friends 8% 9%
Boat/Cruise ship 6% 2%
Tent camping 4% 9%
Trailer/RV camping 4% 27%

The 78-hour Memorial Day weekend officially begins: 6 p.m., Friday, May 27 and ends 11:59 p.m., Monday, May 30. During Memorial Day weekend in 2004, 12 people were killed in 12 fatal crashes in Michigan, an increase from the 10 killed in 10 fatal crashes in 2003. Six, or 50 percent, of the 2004 victims were belted. Alcohol was a factor in five of the fatal crashes (41.67 percent).

During the Memorial Day weekend, AAA Michigan will once again partner with the Michigan State Police in supporting Operation CARE. Operation CARE stands for “Combined Accident Reduction Effort.” Bright yellow banners will be posted at rest areas statewide, with most sites offering complimentary coffee and refreshments.

In addition to Operation CARE, Michigan law enforcement agencies will embark on a new and ambitious program to make this the safest summer on record by increasing traffic patrols throughout the summer to strictly enforce safety belt and drunk driving laws. The enhanced traffic enforcement effort is being supported by federal traffic safety funds

The Auto Club advises motorists to plan ahead and allow extra time to navigate construction areas on the state’s highways. For traffic and detour information, motorists can call 1-800-AAA-MICH (222-6424). Or, before leaving, check the AAA Michigan Web site, http://www.aaatraffic.com/ , for updated traffic information.

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