AAA Projects A Slight Decrease In N.J. Memorial Day Holiday Travel

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STATE—AAA expects 926,000 New Jerseyans to travel 50 miles or more this Memorial Day holiday weekend, a 3 percent decrease (31,000) from the 957,000 Garden State residents who traveled over the same period last year.

Nationally, however, AAA is projecting a 1.5 percent increase over Memorial Day 2008.  An estimated 32.4 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home this holiday weekend.  This represent s a slight increase (500,000) from the 31.9 million who traveled last year, but a dramatic decline from the 35.3 million travelers who vacationed in 2007.

“Last year, travelers were dealing with gasoline prices approaching $4 a gallon and a deteriorating economy, which resulted in fewer trips being taken than had been forecasted,” said Rick Zeckendorf, vice president of travel services for Florham Park-based AAA New Jersey.  “Although the economy is still in turmoil, plentiful travel bargains coupled with significantly lower gas prices have Americans feeling better about taking a trip this summer.  These factors should help tourism-based economy nationwide.  Further, the Jersey Shore should benefit from those who desire to stay closer to home.”

Travel By the Numbers
Automobile:

  • Nationally – 27 million (83 percent of travelers), an increase from the approximately 26.3 million that paid among the highest fuel prices on record to travel by motor vehicle last year.
  • New Jersey – 778,000 (84 percent of travelers), a 2.5 percent decrease from 2008

Plane:

  • Nationally – 2.1 million (7 percent of travelers), reflecting a one percent decrease from those who took to the skies last year.
  • New Jersey – 58,000 (6.4 percent of travelers), a 12 percent decrease from 2008

Train, Bus, Watercraft or Other Mode:

  • Nationally – 3.3 million (10 percent of travelers)
  • New Jersey – 90,000 (9.6 percent of travelers), a 3.2  percent decrease compared to 2008

Gas Prices
Motorists driving to their holiday weekend destinations will encounter gas prices significantly lower than Memorial Day 2008.  The current nationwide average price of a gallon of regular gasoline is $2.33, $1.47 less than the $3.80 per gallon average over the same period last year.

In New Jersey, motorists are paying $2.20 for a gallon of regular gasoline, a $1.48 decrease from Memorial Day 2008 ($3.68).  Locally, in Essex, Morris and Union counties, a gallon of regular gasoline costs $2.20, down $1.49 from the $3.69 per gallon average from one year ago, but 30 cents higher than one month ago.

Historical Perspective on Memorial Day Holiday Gas Prices, average per gallon, in New Jersey:

  • 2009 – $2.20
  • 2008 – $3.81
  • 2007 – $2.96
  • 2006 – $2.91
  • 2005 – $2.05
  • 2004 – $2.00
  • 2003 – $1.42
  • 2002 – $1.34
  • 2001 – $1.65

AAA reports that the average distance traveled by Americans this Memorial Day weekend will be approximately 620 miles, a slight decrease from last year, when the average distance traveled was expected to be 640 miles.  Average spending will also increase from an average of $859 in 2008 to $1,052 this year.  Nearly 60 percent of Americans will spend time with friends and relatives over the holiday, and traveling as a family will be the most popular way to go, with 34 percent of travelers making a journey with children or other family members.

According to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, airfares over the Memorial Day holiday weekend are expected to decrease four percent from last year, as air passengers will pay an average of $176.  Car rental rates will drop lower with consumers paying an average of $43 per day, compared to $45 last year, a decrease of three percent.  Hotel rates for AAA Three Diamond lodgings are expected to be 12 percent less than last year, with travelers spending an average of $142 per night.  However, rates at AAA Two Diamond properties are expected to increase, with travelers paying an average of $104 per night, seven percent more than a year ago.

AAA’s projections are based on research conducted by IHS Global Insight.  The Boston-based economic research and consulting firm teamed with AAA earlier this year as part of an agreement to jointly analyze travel trends during the major holidays.  AAA has been reporting on holiday travel trends for more than two decades.  The complete AAA/IHS Global Insight 2009 Memorial Day holiday forecast can be found at AAA.com/news.


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