38 million people planning to travel for Memorial Day

courtesy: U.S. Census Bureau

FARGO, N.D. (Valley News Live/AAA) Thanks to low gas prices, a growing labor market and rising personal incomes more people will be leaving home for the kick-off to summer.

AAA projects more than 38 million Americans will travel this Memorial Day weekend. That is the second-highest Memorial Day travel volume on record and the most since 2005.

“We are forecasting an increase in holiday travelers for the second consecutive year, and the most in 11 years, largely due to low gas prices, a growing labor market and rising personal incomes. If these factors continue, the travel industry should enjoy a booming summer season,” said Joe Richardson, President and CEO, AAA – The Auto Club Group.

Nearly 34 million (89 percent) holiday travelers will drive to their Memorial Day destinations, an increase of 2.1 percent over last year.

Air travel is expected to increase 1.6 percent over last year, with 2.6 million Americans taking to the skies this Memorial Day.

Travel by other modes of transportation, including cruises, trains and buses, will fall 2.3 percent, to 1.6 million travelers.

“Not surprisingly, we’re seeing the highest share of auto travelers in history because gas prices are at multi-year lows,” said Gene LaDoucer, North Dakota spokesman for AAA.

“Driving is less expense than buying multiple plane tickets for larger families. Plus, you have more flexibility in changing trip duration and distance.”

AAA expects most U.S. drivers will pay the lowest Memorial Day gas prices since 2005.

“Gas prices peak in most years before Memorial Day, which means we could see gas prices decline later this summer if normal trends apply,” said LaDoucer.

AAA estimates that Americans have saved more than $18 billion on gas so far this year compared to the same period in 2015.

People are also saving on plane tickets. According to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, average airfares for the top 40 domestic flight routes will be 26 percent cheaper this Memorial Day, with an average roundtrip ticket costing $165.

Fast Facts:
• The Memorial Day holiday travel period is defined as Thursday, May 26 to Monday, May 30
• An estimated 38,033,000 Americans will travel 50 miles or more. That is the second-highest travel volume on record for this holiday behind 2005, when there were 44,041,000 travelers
• About 700,000 more people will travel than last year’s holiday (1.8% increase)
• The growth is led by the lowest gas prices in 11 years and a strong labor market, which is helping to boost incomes and consumer spending
• 33.9 million Americans will drive, raising the share of auto travelers to a record-setting 89 percent for the holiday
• Average airfares for the holiday weekend are 26 percent lower than the same time last year.