Bad economy, fuel prices reduce holiday travel, says AAA

AAA of Washington estimates the number of long distance drivers are again lower than in years past.  - File Photo
AAA of Washington estimates the number of long distance drivers are again lower than in years past.
— image credit: File Photo

The American Automobile Association is predicting a more Washington travelers are staying home compared with years past during the July 4 holiday period.

Based on research by IHS Global Insight, AAA estimates 37.1 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home over the holiday travel period continuing a trend started last year. The 1.9 percent decrease in Washington mirrors the national trend with a decrease of 1.9 percent. Of those drivers, AAA expects them to drive an average of 614 miles roundtrip.

The projected slight decline in leisure travel is mainly related to ongoing uncertainty about the strength of the economy - especially rising unemployment rates and waning personal incomes. The increase in gasoline prices since the beginning of the year may also cause some travelers to limit or abbreviate their holiday plans, although its impact on overall vacation costs remains minimal, AAA said.

“Many Americans remain cautious about the outlook for their personal finances and these attitudes are reflected in the decline in travel we are forecasting for the upcoming holiday weekend," said AAA Washington spokesperson Jennifer Cook. "Those who do vacation this summer will find a plethora of attractive discounts and special offers resulting in some outstanding vacation values. If you can afford to go, this summer is a smart time to travel."

The current average price of self-serve regular unleaded gasoline in Washington is $2.91 per gallon, which is $1.43 lower than one year ago. Nationally, gas prices are down $1.39 from a year ago to $2.68 per gallon.

Many holiday travelers are thought to be increasingly taking advantage of low airline ticket prices during the industry's traditional peak season. An estimated 2 million are flying over the holiday period, a 4.9 percent increase.

AAA Washington believes most holiday travelers are driving to in-state destinations, the Oregon coast, and British Columbia. Southern California and Arizona are thought to be local favorites for air travel.

Overall, Fourth of July travelers are expected to spend an average of $1,160 per household this holiday weekend on travel expenses.

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