AAA predicts rise in holiday weekend travelers

JONESBORO — AAA Travel projects nearly one million Georgians will be traveling 50 miles or more for the Memorial Day holiday weekend.

The holiday traveling period lasts four days from May 22 to May 26, according to AAA.

“A long and unusually harsh winter gave many Americans the travel bug,” said Mark Jenkins, spokesman, for The Auto Club Group. “Combine rising temperatures with signs of an improving economy, and travel for the holiday should hit a new post-recession high.”

Although an increased number of people plan to travel during the holiday weekend, more than half of Memorial Day travelers in the Southeast still need to finalize their travel plans such as hotel reservations, car rentals, and the like, according to a recent AAA survey.

“Hotel and car rental reservations are filling up fast for Memorial Day,” said Jessica Brady, spokeswoman, AAA Travel. “Now is the time to make your Memorial Day travel arrangements to ensure you get what you want for the price that fits your budget.”

Economic improvement spurs travel growth

Improvements in several key economic factors are driving the expectation for more holiday travelers this year, said AAA.

“Consumer spending, disposable income, consumer confidence and the employment outlook are trending up which is welcomed news for the travel industry,” Jenkins said.

The unforgiving winter was a hindrance to economic growth at the beginning of the year but economic factors influenced by weather, such as car and home sales, appear to be resolving themselves now, the club said.

Impact of gasoline prices on travel plans

The Auto Club said it expects that most drivers will pay lower gas prices by Memorial Day weekend due to rising supplies. AAA expects holiday gas prices to be relatively similar or even slightly less than last year’s national Memorial Day average of $3.63 per gallon, though unexpected developments such as refinery problems or international events could result in higher costs.

“With many plans already made and budgets set, it is unlikely that gas prices will have a significant effect on travel plans compared to a year ago,” Jenkins said.

Travel expenses rise modestly

According to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, hotel rates for AAA Three Diamond lodgings are expected to increase just two percent from one year ago with travelers spending an average of $169 per night compared to $166 last year. The average hotel rate for AAA Two Diamond hotels has risen 3 percent with an average cost of $124 per night.

Weekend daily car rental rates will average $44, only 1 percent higher than last year. Airfares are experiencing the largest increase. The average round-trip, discounted fares for the top 40 U.S. routes have increased 6 percent to $227 from $215 last year.