AAA forecasts that there will be 34.4 million travelers who take a trip at least 50 miles away from home this Labor Day weekend, an increase of 9.9 percent from 31.3 million travelers last year, based on information from IHS Global Insight.
The 2010 Labor Day holiday travel period is defined as Thursday, September 2 to Monday, September 6. AAA said the earlier the holiday falls in September, the more travel tends to occur.
The increase in travel has been attributed to economic improvement over the past year. Gross domestic product, household net worth and consumer confidence has increased while consumer debt has decreased. The travel industry in the United States began to gain traction in the fourth quarter of 2009 and has continued to strengthen in 2010.
"While media reports on the state of the U.S. economy are mixed, many Americans are still interested in taking one more trip as the summer travel season comes to a close," says Glen MacDonell, director of AAA Travel Services. "It is encouraging to see more Americans planning to travel to visit family, friends and exciting vacation destinations."
More travelers will use automobiles to reach their destinations
About 31.4 million Labor Day weekend travelers (or 91 percent of total travelers) are expected to use an automobile to reach their destination. This is a 10.3 percent increase from 2009, in which 28.5 million travelers used automobiles.
AAA expects the national average price of self-serve regular gasoline to be between $2.65 and $2.75 per gallon during the holiday weekend unless any major tropical storm activity takes place in the Gulf Coast region.
Air travel will only be utilized by 1.62 million holiday travelers, just five percent of total holiday travel. This is a 4.6 percent increase from the 1.54 million travelers that flew in 2009.
Four percent of travelers will use rail, bus and watercraft to reach their destinations.
Travelers will spend more while traveling shorter distances
The distance traveled by Americans this Labor Day weekend is expected to be an average of 635 miles, which is slightly less than last year's average of 645 miles.
Median spending will increase from $650 in 2009 to $697 this year. Dining (63 percent); shopping (47 percent) and visiting with friends and relatives (43 percent) were named as the three top primary activities by travelers this Labor Day weekend.
Airfares and hotel rates are expected to increase
According to AAA's Leisure Travel Index, airfares over the Labor Day holiday weekend are expected to increase nine percent from last year's rates. The lowest round-trip rates are increasing to $179 for the top 40 United States air routes.
Car rentals for the holiday weekend will increase to $46, approximately seven percent.
AAA Three Diamond lodgings are expected to increase their rates six percent, from an average of $132 in 2009 to $139 this year. Two Diamond hotels are expected to increase two percent to an average of $102 per night.