This weekend launches the unofficial start of summer with Memorial Day on Monday. Lots of Americans like to get away and if the AAA travel forecast is correct, some 36.1 million Americans will travel at least 50 miles this weekend.
That makes for the best forecast since 2005 and one of the busiest Memorial Day weekends we’ve seen in 15 years. Despite gas prices pushing past $3.50 per gallon, AAA believes that the all too recently ended winter was a contributor to people’s desire to travel this weekend. Indeed, the winter was so tough that AAA’s dead battery service jumped by more than 12 percent.
“As we enter into the summer travel season with warmer temperatures and tulips in bloom, thoughts of historic cold are still fresh in the minds of Americans in many parts of the country,” said Marshall L. Doney, AAA Chief Operating Officer, in a report on AAA’s website. “The winter blues appear to have given Americans the travel bug and a case of cruise cabin fever as travel for the holiday is expected to hit a new postrecession high.”
Economic Anxiety Eases
AAA also says that Americans are feeling better about the economy as both net worth and personal income are on the rise. With a 2 percent increase in disposable income, AAA has forecast that Americans will spend 3.6 percent more in 2014 than in 2013. Several consumer indicators including consumer sentiment and consumer confidence have shown improvement over last year, coinciding nicely with the advent of the summer driving season.
Last year, consumers faced pump prices averaging $3.63 per gallon. This year, prices should come in slightly lower. If you plan to rent a car there is some good news for you: prices are just 1 percent higher than last year.
Click It or Ticket Campaign
Drivers should know that a national “Click it or Ticket” campaign has launched and will run through June 1, 2014. More than 10,000 law enforcement departments are participating with an eye to ensuring that seat belt safety laws are being followed.
While many Americans will be taking to the road, America’s skies will be busy too. And that air travel will come at a price with airfares increasing an average of 6 percent year over year. That means the average ticket of $215 in 2013 will reach $227 this year. In any case, just 7 percent of Memorial Day weekend travelers will get there by air. Trains, cruise ships and even bicycles will also take people where they are going.
If you plan on staying in a hotel over the long weekend, you can expect to pay $169 per night on average, up from $166 last year for a Three Diamond stay. Choose a Two Diamond hotel and you will pay $124 per night on average.
How to Save Money
Traveling is good for the economy, but it can be tough on the wallet. Before heading out, download apps that can help you find discounts on restaurants, hotels, theater ticket and other entertainment venues. Be careful, however, as blacked out dates for some destinations span the long weekend.
See Also — Check out our Travel Deals page for big savings on hotels, theme parks and other destinations!