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 due to 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, August 29 to Monday, September 2.
"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 AAA President and CEO Robert L. Darbelnet. "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 2013 AAA Labor Day Holiday Travel Forecast include:
- 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 three percent to 2.61 million.
- The largest share of travelers (46 percent) will depart on Friday, August 30
- Monday, September 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," continued Darbelnet. "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."
Automobile travel remains dominant mode of transportation
Approximately 29.2 million people (85 percent) plan to drive to their destination, an increase of 4.3 percent from the 28 million who drove last year.
Gas prices are unlikely to be a major factor for people in determining whether they will travel this Labor Day. As of mid-August, prices were on average down 2.7 percent per gallon compared to the same time year. The average price for gas on Labor Day 2012 was $3.83 per gallon, the most expensive average ever on record for the holiday. The current national average price for a gallon of regular gas is $3.54, 18 cents lower than last year.
AAA forecasts gas prices to remain less expensive than last year based on current trends through the middle of August, but there remains the potential for late-summer hurricanes and refinery problems that could send prices higher.
However, gas prices remain at a level most Americans consider too high. Half of U.S. adults consider gas prices to be "too high" when it reaches $3.44 per gallon. Forty-six percent of adults believe gas is too high when it reaches $3.00 per gallon; 61 percent when it reaches $3.50 per gallon; and 90 percent when it reaches $4.00 per gallon.
August 30 busiest travel day as travelers take full advantage of extended weekend
The largest share of travelers (46 percent) on a single day will depart on August 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.
Air travel to increase slightly
More than 2.61 million leisure travelers (eight percent) will arrive at their destination by air, a slight increase (2.8 percent) from last year's 2.54 million air travelers. The remaining seven percent of holiday travelers are expected to travel by other modes, including rail, bus and watercraft.
Average travel distance decreases, spending up slightly
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 less 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).
Car rental rates and airfares rise, hotel rates see slight increase for mid-range hotels
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 four 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 four 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 two percent with an average cost of $115 per night.