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MINNEAPOLIS -- Record numbers of Americans will travel this Memorial Day holiday despite the highest gas prices ever recorded for a holiday, reports the American Automobile Associations. AAA estimates that 37.2 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home this holiday, a 2.2 percent increase from last year.
Approximately 31.1 million travelers (84 percent of all holiday travelers) expect to go by motor vehicle, a 2.2 percent increase from the 30.5 million who drove a year ago. Another 4.2 million (11 percent) plan to travel by airplane, up 3.2 percent from last Memorial Day. A projected 1.9 million vacationers (5 percent) will go by train, bus or other mode of transportation, about even with a year ago.
Holiday auto travelers will find national gas prices currently averaging $2.12 for a gallon of self-serve regular gasoline, down 10 cents from last month, but about 9 cents higher than a year ago. Before being broken several times this year, the previous national average record-high price was $2.05 recorded on May 26, 2004, coinciding with last year's Memorial Day weekend.
"Pump prices may be higher than last year, but gasoline remains a relatively small part of most auto travelers' vacation costs," said Wendy Weigel, vice president of travel for AAA Minneapolis. "Those who are flying will benefit from lower airfares, but will also encounter fuller planes and busier airports. However you travel, it will be busy."
The greatest number of Memorial Day auto travelers will originate in the West with 7.4 million vacationers, followed by the Southeast, 6.7 million; Midwest, 6.6 million; Northeast, 5.8 million; and Great Lakes, 4.6 million.
Cities top the list of preferred destinations this holiday with 25 percent of travel volume. Small towns and rural areas took a close second with 23 percent, followed by ocean/beach at 15 percent; mountain areas, 11 percent; and lakes, 10 percent. State/national parks, 5 percent, and theme/amusement parks, 1 percent, rounded out the list. Another 8 percent responded with other, and 2 percent said they didn't know.
Research about Memorial Day travel is based on a national telephone survey of 1,300 adults by the Travel Industry Association of America.