Holiday travel about to rise?

Published 10:28 am Friday, May 15, 2009

As Memorial Day Weekend kicks off a week from today, AAA expects an increase in travel over last year when 31.9 million Americans traveled for the holiday.

The auto group expects 32.4 million travelers to take a trip of 50 miles or more away from home next weekend, an increase of 1.5 percent over 2008.

Gail Weinholzer, director of public affairs for AAA, said that last year, all five major holidays — Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas — showed a decline in travelers over the year before.

Email newsletter signup

“Memorial Day is off to a good start as far as reversing that trend,” she said.

Gas prices may help.

While prices in Austin and across the nation have risen over the past several weeks, gas prices are nowhere near what they were a year ago. The average gas price in Austin is at $2.29 per gallon, while local prices on May 15, 2008 averaged $3.70.

The current national average is $2.28 a gallon, according to AAA, Oil Price Information Service and Wright Express.

Weinholzer said that Minnesota peaked at $4 a gallon in the middle of June last year and added that while she expects gas prices to rise a bit this summer, she doesn’t expect them to be near last year’s levels.

“Nothing significant,” she said.

In Austin, resident Amy Wolcott said she doesn’t have any travel plans for Memorial Day Weekend, but added the current gas prices aren’t high enough to keep her from traveling this summer.

“It’s not going to stop me if I want to go somewhere,” Wolcott said. “It’s something you have to have, so as far as I’m concerned, complaining about it is not really worth it.”

Oil prices fell below $57 a barrel Thursday as U.S. unemployment continued to rise.

Energy prices have recently neared five- to seven-year lows in a global economic downturn. Refiners have slashed production of gasoline in anticipation of fewer sales, which is part of the reason why prices a the pump are going up even as other energy prices fall.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.