TOPEKA – Memorial Day AAA projects 37.2 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more from home during the Memorial Day holiday weekend, a 4.7 percent increase over last year and the highest volume since 2005. Nearly 89 percent of travelers (33 million) will travel by automobile, an increase of 5.3 percent from the 31.3 million who traveled by automobile last year, and the largest growth seen in five years. The expected rise in car travel is driven by factors that include rising consumer optimism brought on by improving finances, increased purchasing power and lower gas prices.
“AAA is encouraging drivers to be prepared for heavy traffic and to plan accordingly” said Jim Hanni, AAA Kansas spokesman. The Memorial Day holiday travel period is defined as the 5-day period starting today through Monday, May 25.
Consistently, Branson and Yellowstone are top auto travel destination for Kansans. From AAA travel agents, Central Florida attractions, Caribbean cruises and all-inclusive resorts in the region, including Mexico ones, and Canada trips are most popular. Cruises in the Caribbean are being taken earlier this year. Attraction tickets are available at these offices. “We see a trend to all-inclusive travel where the price includes most expenses and you unpack once, whether to resorts or cruising,” Hanni said. He indicated other trends include seasoned travelers shifting interest from ocean to river cruising. Travelers are planning further in advance. For example, many leaving this weekend for Memorial Day were booked before Christmas last year. The offices have had strong demand for International Driving Permits.
AAA’s Leisure Travel Index indicates lowest roundtrip airfares for Memorial Day travel are down 2 percent from last year; lodging for three and two-diamond-rated AAA hotels are up 7 and 16 percent, respectively; and the average car rental daily rate is up 45 percent this year. These trends reflect the dramatic improvement in gas prices from a year ago, growing consumer confidence, and the subsequent increase in travel that has resulted.
Kansas drivers will pay the lowest Memorial Day gas prices since 2009, when the Kansas average was about $2.35. Today’s average is about $2.50, which is 94 cents, or 27 percent lower than the Kansas average price of $3.44 for Memorial Day last year. “The global oil market remains oversupplied, but market watchers are closely monitoring U.S. production and the recent outbreak of violence in the Middle East for any impact that could shift this balance,” said Jim Hanni, AAA Kansas spokesman. We expect price volatility in the near term as traders closely watch the balance between supply and demand. More expensive crude could lead to an increase in production and supply, but geopolitical tensions in the Middle East also raise speculation on tighter supplies.
Maintenance is key to preventing breakdowns
AAA expects to rescue nearly 350,000 motorists at the roadside this Memorial Day weekend, over 1,000 in our Kansas region. Outside of general towing, lockouts, batteries and flat tires, in that order, are expected to be the primary reasons. AAA Kansas also expects over 25,000 calls, just during summer, for service. AAA recommends motorists inspect their vehicles and check batteries and tire conditions before heading out on a holiday getaway. Members can call 1-800-AAA-HELP to request roadside assistance in the event of a breakdown.