With gas prices lower, more hitting the road for Memorial Day
Last year, when gasoline prices hovered near $4 a gallon, Kris Garza stayed home for Memorial Day.
This year, with gas prices at about $1.50 a gallon less, she’s going to Chicago for the weekend to visit her parents.
“With the gas prices lower, we’re traveling a little more,” the Rockford resident said. “Going to see family is a good thing.”
More Americans are taking trips this weekend, the first time since 2007 that there’s been an increase in travel during a major holiday.
About 32.4 million people will travel 50 miles or more this weekend, up 1.5 percent from 2008, according to AAA.
“It’s not a significant amount but it’s something,” AAA Chicago spokeswoman Nicole Niemi said. “I do think it shows that Americans do want to travel. ... There are a lot of good travel deals right now.”
Travelers will see cheaper gas prices, lower airfares, and reduced hotel and car rental rates, AAA reports.
Total travel, though, is still down significantly from Memorial Day 2007 levels as the recession cuts into disposable income.
“Can’t afford the gas, can’t afford to take off work, can’t afford life in general,” said Rockford resident Anna Milone, who is staying home this weekend.
Here’s what those who do travel can expect:
Traffic and road work
Nearly 27 million people will be driving over the holiday weekend, a 2.7 percent increase from last year. AAA said.
The Illinois Tollway and Illinois Department of Transportation will limit road closures where possible, but drivers still should be careful and follow posted speed limits in construction zones.
What it costs
Memorial Day travelers in this region are expected to spend an average of $901, AAA says. Accommodations and transportation will account for about half the total, with food, shopping and entertainment accounting for the remainder.
Gas prices are down, averaging $2.40 a gallon in the Rockford region and $2.47 a gallon in Illinois, according to AAA’s fuelgaugereport.com.
According to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, airfare is expected to decrease 4 percent from last year, car-rental rates will drop 3 percent and hotel rates will drop 7 percent to 12 percent.
Niemi said travel deals should continue through the year as hotels, resorts and cruises try to spur demand during the recession. Popular destinations for local travelers include national parks, Springfield’s historic sites, Washington, D.C., and Walt Disney World.
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