Record High Gas Prices to Cause No Drop Off
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – Despite record-high gas prices averaging more than $2.61 per gallon today, AAA expects no let up in travel for the Labor Day holiday weekend. AAA estimates that 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 4.0 million (12 percent of holiday travelers) 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 Cheri Cihak, spokesperson for AAA South Dakota. “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.
“Although travel will be up slightly this Labor Day, the increase is smaller than what we’ve witnessed the last several holidays. 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 Labor Day is the smallest expected rise since Memorial Day 2003, when holiday travel began to rebound after the 9/11 attacks and Iraq invasion, AAA said. In 2004, Labor Day travel increased by 2.4 percent over the previous year. In 2003, the rate of increase was 1.8 percent, AAA said.
Holiday auto travelers will find gas prices nationwide currently averaging $2.611 for a gallon of self-serve regular gasoline—up 31.8 cents from a month ago and about 73 cents higher than a year ago.
AAA’s Leisure Travel Index shows other vacation costs are up as well from Labor Day 2004. 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 also up about 8 percent. Car rental rates have also increased 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 Cihak. “And even though gasoline still makes 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 www.AAAmaps.com;
• Shop around for the least expensive gas by watching prices before you need to fill-up; go to www.aaa.com/gasprices to find average prices along your route.
• Use a credit card that pays a rebate on gas purchases (offered by AAA and others);
• Drive gently. Excessive braking and accelerating reduces fuel economy.
• Slow down. Driving just 5 mph slower than you normally do will increase fuel economy, while driving faster than highway speed limits reduces fuel economy. Each 5 mph you drive over 60 mph is like paying an additional $0.15 per gallon for gas.
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 expect 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.
As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 48 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services, as well as member-exclusive savings. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers.
As the nation's largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 48 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. AAA clubs can be visited on the Internet at www.aaa.com.