The number of people traveling this Memorial Day weekend will rise by the smallest amount in four years as a 34% rise in gasoline pump prices takes a toll on pocket books, AAA said Thursday (May 18).
Reuters reported that about 37.6 million Americans are expected to travel 50 miles or more from home during the holiday at the end of May, up 0.9% from a year ago. Of that total, motorists are expected to account for 31.4 million, a 0.7% increase from last year.
“While travel will be up slightly this Memorial Day, the increase is the smallest we’ve seen in recent years,” said Sandra Hughes, vice president of AAA Travel. “This is a direct correlation to the price of gas.”
Drivers can expect to pay 75 cents more, or an average of $2.93, for a gallon of self-serve regular gasoline than the prior year, according to AAA, North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization.
Hughes was encouraged by the increase, however slight, in the number of travelers over the holiday.
Airplane travelers over the holiday are expected to be up 1.5% to 4.3 million, while the number of people traveling via train, bus or another type of transportation, including RV, is expected to be steady with last year at 1.9 million, AAA said.
Travelers are faced with rising prices across the board, beyond the price of gasoline. Airplane fares are 10% more than last year, hotel rates are up about 5% and rental car rates about 19%, according to AAA.
“What we’ve seen in the past is that as prices go up, Americans change the way they vacation versus stop vacationing,” Hughes said. “They maybe stay a few days less or they stay in a less expensive hotel. But pricing just changes people’s behavior. It doesn’t really stop them.”