Americans Driving Less, Flying More for Memorial Day

This Memorial Day Weekend, 35.9 million Americans will celebrate by traveling more than 50 miles from home, according to AAA holiday weekend forecast . That’s an increase of 100,000 from last year, despite sky-high gasoline prices.

AAA expects more people to travel this year than last because of “an increase in air travel and an improvement in the overall domestic economic picture,” projects AAA CEO Robert Darbelnet.

But highway travel isn’t keeping pace with other forms of transportation when it comes to holiday getaways.

Darbelnet expects air travel to take off on this first summer season holiday. An estimated 2.93 million “leisure air travelers,” will fly somewhere between May 26-30. That’s 12 percent more than last year, and will represent about 8 percent of all holiday travelers next week. 88 percent will drive, and the rest will take a train, a bus, or a boat.

“Mindful of the cost of gas, a few people have decided not to take the car, and to use an airplane instead-especially if they are traveling a long distance,” the AAA boss told FOX News.

Last year, 31 million people drove to their Memorial Day destinations, but this year, almost 100,000 fewer are expected to do so. AAA explains that six out of 10 drivers aren’t going to let costly gas affect their itineraries. The rest say high fuel prices will make them cut back by taking shorter trips, or alternate modes of transportation.

With gas prices more than $1 per gallon higher than last year, AAA expects travelers to keep their wallets closed. The average family will spend almost $700 on their travel expenses – food, gas, leisure, etc., a sharp decline from $800 last year.

The breakdown looks ugly for the food and beverage industry, on which holiday-goers will spend 21 percent less. Consumers will be trimming 19 percent on lodging. Shopping will take a 13 percent hit, and the entertainment/recreation business will collect 12 percent less.

Like any holiday forecast, AAA’s prediction is subject to change. That said, North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization takes broad spectrum of things into consideration before releasing their information. Travelers are surveyed throughout the year, a variety of historical figures are examined, and many current statistics like the unemployment rate and GDP are combined to make the most educated guess possible. Their next time we hear more predictions from AAA will be this fall, shortly before Thanksgiving.