As the long Labor Day weekend gets underway, AAA expects more holiday travelers than a year ago, and GasBuddy.com notes the lower cost of gasoline is one reason for the forecast.
In Great Bend, regular gas was selling for $3.45 a gallon on Wednesday, and the national average was $3.53. A year ago, the average price for a gallon of gas in Kansas was $3.70, according to GasBuddy.
Other Kansas gas prices reported on GasBuddy Wednesday were: Larned, $3.45 to $3.55; Dodge City, $3.49 to $3.59; Emporia, $3.43 to $3.59; and Topeka, $3.27 to $3.59.
AAA expects 34.1 million Labor Day holiday travelers, a 4.2 percent increase over last year, and an even larger increase is expected in regional travel that includes Kansas. While 10.7 percent of the U.S. population is expected to travel 50 miles or more, 13.1 percent of this region’s population will travel. Besides Kansas, the region includes Missouri, Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota and the Dakotas.
While 85 percent of the U.S. population will travel by auto, 89 percent in this region will do so. Air travel has remained fairly stable over the past three Labor Days following the recession. While 8 percent of the U.S. Labor Day traveler will take to the skies, only 4 percent will do so in this region.
Travel counselors from area AAA offices in Kansas report the top auto travel destinations for Kansas members planning trips now are Branson, New England Fall Foliage, Colorado and Yellowstone/Black Hills. Kansas AAA Travel agents report their top destinations for trip planning are Disneyworld, Hawaii, Fall Foliage, Alaska & Europe cruises, as well as all-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean and Mexico.
“A higher-than-average share of our population typically travels due to our widespread geography,” said James R. Hanni, AAA spokesman in Topeka. “In advance of the Labor Day holiday weekend, it doesn’t hurt that drivers across our region continue to enjoy lower pump prices from a year ago, too.”
The holiday period begins today and runs through Monday, Sept. 2. The largest share of travelers, 46 percent, will depart on Friday, while Monday is the most popular date for return for holiday trips. The average traveler is expected to travel a round-trip distance of 594 miles nationally, while the average distance for the region that includes Kansas is 663 miles.
The budget for Labor Day travel is expected to average $804 for the U.S., while regionally, $660 is the expected average. This includes fuel and other transportation costs, accommodations, food and beverages, shopping and entertainment/recreation. Spending is largely unchanged from last year, with slight increases in spending for food and accommodations, with decreases for some transportation costs.
The average price of regular unleaded gas in Kansas is $3.50 and is less than a penny lower than it was a week ago, 10 cents lower than a month ago, and 17 cents lower than a year ago. While gas demand has grown slightly in recent weeks, supplies have grown nearly 10 percent, providing some relief in the region.