Americans will drive more this Memorial Day than last. The AAA forecasts that 36.1 million people will drive more than 50 miles from home during the holiday weekend, up 1.5% from 2013.
More than eight of 10 travelers will go to their destination by car between Thursday May 22 and Sunday May 26, the official period designated by the AAA.
AAA officials believe that warm weather is not the only cause for the rise. Robert Sinclair Jr., manager of media relations for AAA New York, said:
Rising temperatures and improvements in several key personal economic factors are driving the expectation for more holiday travelers this year. As the economy continues to improve at a slow but steady pace, consumer spending, disposable income, consumer confidence and the employment outlook are trending upward, which is welcome news for the travel industry.
Despite all the press about gasoline prices, they have not risen since the same time last year. The average price of a gallon of regular is $3.65, compared to $3.63 at the same time last year and $3.64 in 2012. Both years are down from 2011 when the price was $3.79. The price was $2.73 in 2011 and $2.42 in 2010. Although the prices in those two years were low, it was also during the depths of the recession. Indeed, over the course of the past decade, the fewest people traveled by car over the 2009 Memorial Day — 30.5 million. The highest year among 10 was 2006 when the economy was thriving. Some 44 million people drove that weekend.
The argument that the economy is among the primary reasons that travel will rise this upcoming holiday may well be true. Unemployment has not been lower in five years. Gross domestic product has improved, at least in most recent quarters. And, millions of Americans have new cars. Why leave them in the garage when it is sunny?