AAA: Full roads this weekend
Heavy Labor Day travel, despite gas prices
Published: Friday, August 31, 2012 at 6:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, August 31, 2012 at 6:00 p.m.
Travelers this Labor Day weekend won’t let high gasoline prices and a sluggish economy keep them off roads and airplanes.
AAA Travel predicts that 33 million Americans nationwide will hit the road and airports for trips of at least 50 miles. That’s a 2.9 percent increase from 32.1 million travelers during the 2011 Labor Day weekend.
As for Floridians: An estimated 1.4 million will take driving trips during the holiday period, defined as Thursday through Monday. That number of drivers is up 2.8 percent compared with last year.
Another 130,059 Floridians will board an airplane, a 3.3 percent increase from 2011.
Those increases come despite a sharp jump in gasoline prices and a struggling economy, according to AAA.
Unleaded, regular gasoline prices jumped from 3.61 per gallon on Aug. 13 to $3.71 per gallon on Aug. 27 along lower East Coast states, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
On Wednesday, the national average price of a gallon of gas jumped almost 5 cents to $3.80, the biggest one-day increase during the past 18 months. Prices are expected to continue to climb through Labor Day weekend, which is the traditional end of the summer driving season.
Energy analysts say some of the price increase is due to Hurricane Isaac forcing oil producers to shut down several refineries along the Gulf Coast.
Gasoline prices on Friday in Gainesville ranged from $3.73 per gallon to $3.99 per gallon of regular, according to GasBuddy.com, a website that tracks prices.
“Summer is coming to an end and people are looking to get out there ….before the next holiday,” said AAA spokesman Mark Jenkins.
As for gasoline prices, Jenkins said travelers are saying they will try to be more strict about their spending in light of rising fuel costs.
But so far, travelers haven’t let fuel prices derail their travel plans, Jenkins said. That could change in the coming months if gasoline prices continue to rise.
“If it were to reach that $4 level, then you’d see some change,” he said.
Most travelers, 66 percent, also reported in a AAA survey that neither the economy nor their own financial situations is negatively affecting their travel plans.
As for the remaining 34 percent of travelers who said their current finances would impact their travel plans — 21 percent of them said they will economize in other areas.
The average distance traveled by Americans this Labor Day holiday is expected to be 626 miles, up slightly from last year’s average of 608 miles. Most travelers, 54 percent, will only take trips of between 100 and 400 miles round-trip.
Median spending while traveling is expected to be $749, up from $702 spent during the same holiday a year ago, according to the AAA survey.
Contact Fred Hiers at 867-4157 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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