Memorial Day means holiday travel, and AAA Idaho says the number of trips in the state, and the country, are going up. Here's a preview of what to expect.
This Memorial Day weekend, more people will be traveling, especially driving. Some of the reasons are a lower unemployment rate, relatively low gas prices and the fact that the economic recession is in the rear-view mirror.
Matthew Conde with AAA Idaho says the severe weather this winter kept people home-bound and made them a little stir crazy. So they’ll head to theme parks and into the outdoors, including destinations like McCall, Coeur d’Alene and Sun Valley.
“More than 205,000 Idahoans will travel at least 50 miles or more from home. The majority of those will be traveling by car, about 180,000. We would say that’s about 5,000 travelers total more than last year,” says Conde.
That’s a trend reflected nationally. Almost 34.6 million people in America will take a drive over Memorial Day. That’s almost one million more people on the roads compared to a year ago.
Conde says a variety of factors are involved.
"What’s going on there is a lot of consumer spending is increasing, but also disposable income is going up. And when those things go up, and unemployment rates are tending to drop right now, consumer attitudes get better and people are more confident about making a travel experience, even if they have to finance it with debt,” says Conde.
This is the third consecutive year of growth in the number of travelers. 2017 will mark the largest Memorial Day travel crowd since 2005.
As travelers prepare for the holiday, drivers take a closer look at gas prices as they plan their trips.
In Idaho, gas prices are higher than the national average as the holiday approaches, but not as bad as recent years. Right now, Idaho gas prices are around $2.54 a gallon. In 2015 it was $2.86 a gallon, in 2014 it was up to $3.61.
But Conde warns gas prices could go up this summer.
At the start of the year, AAA predicted Idaho would go into the summer driving months in the $2.50 to $2.70 a gallon range, which has come true. But in recent meetings, oil giant OPEC talked about cutting production further or extending the current cuts.
“If that happens, it could create a ripple effect and of course with increased seasonal demand, there could be a shock wave in the marketplace, but how big, or how widespread it will be, we will have to see how that looks as we get a little closer,” said Conde.
So Memorial Day gas prices may seems like a bargain as the season continues.
One tip, Conde says fuel up early, if you can, for the Memorial Day weekend. He says leading into the holiday weekend; gas prices get a seasonal bump.
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