— By Joanne Tucker

According to the AAA/IHS Global Insight 2012 Labor Day Holiday Travel Forecast, 33 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more over the Labor Day holiday weekend — a 2.9% increase compared to 2011.

AAA said in the Aug. 21 report that the total number of this year’s travelers is expected to reach “a new post-recession high,” and is the third increase in holiday travel this year. This year’s Labor Day period is from Thursday, Aug. 30 to Monday, Sept. 3.

Automobile and Car Rental Holiday Travel

Approximately 28.2 million people, or 85% of travelers, will take their vacation by automobile — a 3.1% increase over the 27.3 million people in 2011, according to AAA. The report also states that weekend daily car rental rates will average $39, a 10% decrease over last year.

Enterprise Rent-A-Car reported Aug. 20 that its advance neighborhood rental car reservation numbers for the holiday are on average at 25% above last year.

According to Steve Short, vice president of Enterprise Rent-A-Car, this increase is consistent with the company’s prior-year increases for the holiday.

“It’s also noteworthy that weekend summer rental numbers in comparison to 2011 are up, which demonstrates that people are choosing to rent a car in their neighborhood for weekend and holiday travel needs, despite the down economy,” Short said. “Cost savings, convenience and lack of wear-and-tear on their own vehicles seem to be at the heart of this continued growth.”

Impact of Gas Prices

Despite the fact that AAA surveys have shown how gasoline prices are critical to household budgets, 66% of intended travelers said that for this Labor Day their household finances would not negatively impact their holiday traveling. AAA said that overall, “gas prices are not expected to have a major impact on Labor Day holiday weekend travel.”

For those intended travelers in the AAA report that said their finances could impact their trip, 21% said they would “economize in other areas,” 9% plan to travel a shorter distance and 4% said they will travel through alternative transportation.

The report found that the average distance traveled during the holiday weekend is projected at 626 miles — up slightly from 2012’s average of 608 miles. However, 54% of travelers will be taking trips between 100 and 400 round-trip miles.

In addition, the median spending of is expected to be $749 — an increase of less than $50 over last year.

Travel for the Year

Amongst the weekend holiday travel reports, in looking at travel for the year, the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration reported on Aug. 21 that “the U.S. travel and tourism industry is on pace for another record-setting year,” and that international visitors could spend more than $169 billion in the U.S. before the year is out.

Related news: To see Auto Rental News' latest report on average car rental rates across the U.S., click here to read: "Auto Rental News Rate Survey: Summer Rates Disappoint."