AAA: 34.1 million traveling for Labor Day, highest since recession-driven decline

Online Staff Report

AURORA, Ill. — AAA Travel projects 34.1 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more from home during the upcoming Labor Day holiday, a 4.2 percent increase from the 32.7 million people who traveled last year.

The anticipated increase in holiday travel is predominantly the result of increased consumer spending and the improving housing market.

The total number of 2013 Labor Day holiday travelers is expected to reach a new post-recession high. The Labor Day holiday travel period is defined as Thursday, Aug. 29, to Monday, Sept. 2.

In Illinois, 1.9 million people will be traveling for the holiday weekend, which is a 3.8 percent increase from 2012. Of those travelers, just more than 1.7 million will be driving (a 3.8 percent increase compared with 2012) and just more than 70,000 will be flying to their destination (a 2.1 percent increase from 2012). Gas prices across Illinois are on average $3.63, down from $4.03 in 2012.

In Indiana, just more than 813,000 people are expected to travel, which is a 3.9 percent increase from 2012. Of those, 726,000 are expected to travel by auto (4 percent increase) and about 30,000 by air (2.2 percent increase). In Indiana, gas prices are on average $3.50 per gallon, down from $3.76 this time last year. The average price nationally for gas is $3.54.

AAA is forecasting a lift in Labor Day travel this year due to the increasingly positive economic outlook and optimism in the housing market,” said Brad Roeber, AAA Chicago regional president. “For many Americans, their home is also their biggest asset, as home prices improve in many parts of the country more families are feeling comfortable about traveling this Labor Day holiday.”

Highlights from the 2013 AAA Labor Day Holiday Travel Forecast include the following:

• Labor Day holiday travelers to total 34.1 million, an increase of 4.2 percent from the 32.7 million who traveled last year

• Eighty-five percent of travelers (29.2 million) to travel by automobile, an increase of 4.3 percent from 28 million last year

• Holiday air travel expected to increase nearly 3 percent to 2.61 million.

• The largest share of travelers (46 percent) will depart on Friday, Aug. 30

• Monday, Sept. 2, is the most popular date of return for holiday trips with 43 percent planning to return that day

• The average traveler is expected to travel a round-trip distance of 594 miles and spend $804

As schools across the nation usher in their next session of students, the Labor Day holiday provides families with the opportunity for one final extended summer weekend getaway,” said Roeber. “AAA reminds drivers as they head out for the holiday and the school year is beginning that safety should remain top of mind. It is important to remain distraction-free and keep their mind on the task of driving.”

The largest share of travelers (46 percent) on a single day will depart on Aug. 30 and the largest share will return on Monday (43 percent). Eighty-five percent intend to return from their Labor Day trip on Monday, Tuesday or later.

According to the survey of intending travelers, the average distance traveled by Americans during the Labor Day holiday weekend is expected to be 594 miles, which is 32 miles fewer than last year’s average of 626 miles. Median spending during the Labor Day holiday weekend is expected to grow to $804, compared to $749 last year. Travelers expect to spend 24 percent of their budget on transportation and lodging and 21 percent on food and beverages. During the holiday weekend, the most popular activities will be dining (57 percent), visiting with friends/family (46 percent) and shopping (43 percent).

According to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, weekend daily car rental rates will average $51, 32 percent more than last year’s average of $39. Airfares increased 4 percent year-over-year, with an average lowest round-trip rate of $214 for the top 40 U.S. air routes compared to $205 last year. Hotel rates for AAA Three Diamond lodgings are expected to increase 4 percent from one year ago with travelers spending an average $161 per night compared to $154 last year. The average hotel rate for AAA Two Diamond hotels are expected to drop 2 percent with an average cost of $115 per night.

AAA’s projections are based on economic forecasting and research by IHS Global Insight. The Colorado-based business information provider teamed with AAA in 2009 to jointly analyze travel trends during the major holidays. AAA has been reporting on holiday travel trends for more than two decades.

Posted Aug. 28, 2013

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