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ORLANDO, Fla. – AAA Travel predicts that 34.1 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home during the upcoming Labor Day holiday, a 4.2-percent increase from last year's 32.7 million and the highest number since the recession began. The Labor Day holiday travel period is defined as Thursday, Aug. 29 to Monday, Sept. 2.
The anticipated increase in travel is primarily due to increased consumer spending and the improving housing market, AAA said.
"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."
Approximately 29.2 million people, or 85 percent of this year's travelers, plan to drive to their holiday destination, up 4.3 percent from last year's 28 million. Gas prices are unlikely to be a major factor for those still deciding whether or not to travel. As of mid-August, gas prices had fallen 2.7 percent per gallon, on average, from the same time last year. Labor Day 2012 had a record high average price of $3.83 per gallon.
Travelers are expected to spend 24 percent of their budget on transportation and lodging, and 21 percent on food and beverages. The most popular activities for the weekend are projected to be dining (57 percent), visiting with friends and family (46 percent) and shopping (43 percent).
Other highlights from the 2013 AAA Labor Day holiday travel forecast include:
- Air travel is expected to increase nearly 3 percent to 2.61 million, or 8 percent of this year's travelers;
- The largest number of travelers, 46 percent, will depart on Friday, Aug. 30;
- Monday, Sept. 2, is the most popular day to return from the holiday weekend, with 43 percent planning to return that day; and
- The average vacationer will travel a roundtrip distance of 594 miles, down 32 miles from last year, and spend $804 vs. $749 in 2012.
"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," Darbelnet said.