AAA projects 34.8 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more from home during the Memorial Day travel weekend, a 0.9 percent decrease from the 35.1 million people who traveled a year ago.
“Despite a slight decline from a year ago, travel volumes are expected to remain above a 12-year historical average,” said AAA Idaho Public Affairs Director Dave Carlson. “Millions of travelers will kick off the summer travel season, using the holiday as a reason to get away from it all.”
The modest change in numbers suggests a “settling in” period following a lengthy recession, reflecting mixed factors including the influence of sequestration and improved consumer spending.
During the travel period defined as Thursday, May 23, through Monday, May 27, AAA says nearly nine of 10 holiday travelers, or 31.2 million, people will drive to their destinations. That represents a small increase from the 31.1 million who drove a year ago.
Closer to home, more than 164,000 Idahoans, or 10.3 percent of the population, are expected to drive to their destinations.
Air travel will account for 7 percent, or slightly more than 2.3 million of all holiday travelers. That’s about an 8 percent decline from a year ago when 2.5 million flew. Other modes of travel—buses, trains, watercraft and multi-modal—will account for the remaining 4 percent—or 1.3 million travelers.
AAA’s travel forecast is based on an assessment of economic drivers and a traveler profile of intended behaviors related to party composition, travel distances, and trip expenditures, by IHS Global Insight.
Highlights from the 2013 Memorial Day forecast include:
- 34.8 million—number of travelers nationwide, down 0.9 percent from a year ago.
- 690 miles—expected average round-trip, up from 642 a year ago.
- $659—median holiday spending, down from $702 last year.
- 16 percent—expected portion of total travel budget for gas and fuel.
- 164,000—number of Idahoans expected to drive to holiday destinations.
- 59 percent, 54 percent—percentages visiting with family and friends and dining, the top two planned activities respectively.
Impact of gas prices
Gasoline prices are expected to have less influence on the majority of travelers this holiday, based on a nationwide survey—the Holiday Traveler Profile—conducted by D.K. Shifflet and Associates. Sixty-two percent of intended travelers surveyed said gas prices would have no impact on their travel plans for Memorial Day. That compares to 53 percent a year ago.
Of the remaining 38 percent of travelers who said gas prices would impact their travel plans, 27 percent plan to economize in other areas. Eight percent are planning to take a shorter trip and 3 percent will travel by alternate mode of transportation.
However, it remains to be seen if that prediction holds everywhere in the country. Tight regional supplies and refinery maintenance—both planned and unplanned—have caused dramatically higher pump prices on the West Coast and in the Midwest.
“Idahoans are paying higher prices during that same period, but not anywhere near those levels,” AAA’s Carlson said.
Based on AAA’s Daily Fuel Gauge Report (www.fuelgaugereport.AAA.com) the U.S. average for regular grade gasoline is $3.66. That’s up 14 cents in the past weeks, and just 2 cents lower than the average $3.68 price a year ago.
Idaho’s average price, which had been well below the national average during the first several months of this year, is now $3.65, up about 11 cents in the past two weeks, but 16 cents lower than the $3.81 average a year ago.