AAA sees cars on the road Memorial Day weekend


It begins Thursday 5/26/11 and ends Monday 5/30/11 – that is the Memorial Day long travel weekend as defined by the American Automobile Association. It says that despite gas prices pushing or exceeding $4/gallon, Americans will take to the roads in slightly greater numbers than in 2010.

The organization expects 34.9M Americans will be travelling more than 50 miles from home over the long weekend, an increase of 100K, or 0.2%, over Memorial Day weekend 2010.

“Memorial Day travel experienced a gain of more than 14 percent in 2010, and this year we expect to add slightly to that gain due to an increase in air travel and an improvement in the overall domestic economic picture,” said AAA President and CEO Robert L. Darbelnet. “Some travelers will compensate for the higher fuel costs by cutting other areas of their travel budgets.”

Gas prices are having a noticeable effect – the price of gas is up over a dollar, sitting at $3.91/per gallon compared to last year’s average of $2.85/per gallon. That will actually have the effect of erasing 100K highway travelers, bringing the estimate down from 31M to 30.9M.

However, the road loss is mitigated by gains in the sky. 2.93M pleasure travelers will be taking to the air, a 11.5% gain over the 2.63M who did likewise last year. 8% of the travel during the period is expected to be holiday-related.

AAA says that trains, busses and watercraft account for about 3% of holiday travel, and also notes that all travelers will encounter increases in lodging and car rental expense, but lower airfares.

AAA’s projections are based on economic forecasting and research by IHS Global Insight.

RBR-TVBR observation: The economic underpinnings you can read between the lines of the AAA report aren’t great, but they could be worse. It would be better to see a rip-roaring return to the practice of making the most of a long weekend. But the fact that it is at least maintaining year-over-year stability in the face of the price of gas is at the very least a strong indication that the economy is not back-sliding, and in terms of this one specific weekend, gains made in 2010 are holding steady.