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Americans Drive More, Fly Less to Memorial Day Celebrations

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AAA Forecasts a Slight Decrease in Overall Travel

Approximately 31.2 million motorists will pack the nation's highways this weekend as they drive at least 50 miles for their Memorial Day festivities. AAA Travel projects 34.8 million Americans are traveling for the holiday, a 0.9 percent decrease from the 35.1 million people who traveled last year. The Memorial Day holiday travel period is defined as Thursday, May 23 to Monday, May 27.

"Although overall national travel is down slightly with 34.8 million holiday travelers, we continue to see a general upward trend from the decade low in 2009 of 30.5 million travelers," according to Jim Lehman, President, AAA East Central. "Auto travel continues to be the most popular mode of travel. Approximately 89 percent of holiday travelers will be driving, most likely anticipating lower gas prices in many areas," he added.

East South Central region

Almost 2 million people from the East South Central states (Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi) expect to travel this holiday weekend. Approximately 88 percent will be traveling by car, while just over 7 percent will be flying to their destinations.

Impact of gasoline prices on travel plans

A survey of intended travelers found that gasoline prices would have no impact on plans for 62 percent of travelers. 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 three percent will travel by an alternate mode of transportation.

Since national gas prices peaked at the end of February, motorists nationwide have felt welcome relief at the pump.

Air travelers to decline by eight percent

More than 2.3 million leisure air travelers (more than seven percent of holiday travelers) will arrive at their destination by air, an eight percent decrease from last year's 2.5 million air travelers. The remaining four percent of holiday travelers are expected to travel by other modes, including rail, bus and watercraft.

Median spending is expected to decrease as travelers prioritize family and friends

Median spending during the Memorial Day holiday weekend is expected to be $659, six percent less than the $702 median spending last year. Transportation is expected to consume approximately 28 cents of every dollar. Travelers expect to spend 22 percent on food and beverage and 20 percent on lodging.

During the holiday weekend, more than half of intending travelers will plan to partake in visiting with friends/family (59 percent) and dining (55 percent). Other popular activities include shopping (44 percent), going to the beach (32 percent) and touring and sightseeing (27 percent).

Car rental rates highest in four years, hotel rates rise modestly

According to AAA's Leisure Travel Index, hotel rates for AAA Three Diamond lodgings are expected to increase over four percent from one year ago with travelers spending an average of $166 per night compared to $160 last year. The average hotel rate for AAA Two Diamond hotels remained unchanged with an average cost of $120 per night. Weekend daily car rental rates will average $43, 19 percent more than last year and the highest rate recorded for the holiday since 2009.

AAA offers digital travel planning resources

AAA's digital tools for travel planning 'on the go' include eTourBook guides for 101 top North American destinations, available free to members at eBooks. Choose from city titles, like the award-winning Las Vegas, regions, like Wine Country, and National Parks. ______________________