Labor Day Travel Play

Gas prices not expected to be factor in trip decisions, says AAA

ORLANDO, Fla. -- AAA Travel projects 34.1 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more from home during the upcoming Labor Day holiday, a 4.2% increase from the 32.7 million people who traveled last year. The anticipated increase in holiday travel is predominantly due to increased consumer spending and the improving housing market. The total number of 2013 Labor Day holiday travelers is expected to reach a new post-recession high.

The Labor Day holiday travel period is defined as Thursday, Aug., 29 to Monday, Sept. 2.

Approximately 29.2 million people (85%) plan to drive to their destination, an increase of 4.3% from the 28 million who drove last year.

Gasoline prices are unlikely to be a major factor for people in determining whether they will travel this Labor Day. As of mid-August, prices were on average down 2.7% per gallon compared to the same time year. The average price for gasoline on Labor Day 2012 was $3.83 per gallon, the most expensive average ever on record for the holiday. The current national average price for a gallon of regular gas is $3.54, 18 cents lower than last year.

AAA forecasts gasoline prices to remain less expensive than last year based on current trends through the middle of August, but there remains the potential for late-summer hurricanes and refinery problems that could send prices higher.

Fuel prices remain at a level most Americans consider too high, however. Half of U.S. adults consider the gasoline price to be "too high" when it reaches $3.44 per gallon; 46% of adults believe gasoline is too high when it reaches $3 per gallon; 61% when it reaches $3.50 per gallon; and 90% when it reaches $4 per gallon.

The largest share of travelers (46%) on a single day will depart on Aug. 30 and the largest share will return on Monday (43%); and 85% intend to return from their Labor Day trip on Monday, Tuesday or later.

More than 2.61 million leisure travelers (8%) will arrive at their destination by air, a slight increase (2.8%) from last year's 2.54 million air travelers. The remaining 7% of holiday travelers are expected to travel by other modes, including rail, bus and watercraft.

According to the survey of intending travelers, the average distance traveled by Americans during the Labor Day holiday weekend is expected to be 594 miles, which is 32 miles less than last year's average of 626 miles.

Median spending during the Labor Day holiday weekend is expected to grow to $804, compared to $749 last year. Travelers expect to spend 24% of their budget on transportation and lodging and 21% on food and beverages.

During the holiday weekend the most popular activities will be dining (57%), visiting with friends/family (46%) and shopping (43%).

"AAA is forecasting a lift in Labor Day travel this year due to the increasingly positive economic outlook and optimism in the housing market," said AAA president and CEO Robert L. Darbelnet. "For many Americans, their home is also their biggest asset, as home prices improve in many parts of the country more families are feeling comfortable about traveling this Labor Day holiday."

Click here to read the full AAA report, including regional breakdowns.