Over 39 Million Americans Expected To Travel Labor Day Weekend, AAA Reports

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FLORHAM PARK—AAA projects 39.1 million Americans – including 1.4 million New Jerseyans – will travel 50 miles or more during the upcoming Labor Day weekend.  Though this projection is a decrease from last year – 11.8% nationally and 13.3% in New Jersey – AAA expects this Labor Day weekend travel to be the third strongest this decade, behind 2008 (45.1 million) and 2003 (41.6 million).

“Labor Day 2008 was the strongest ever, mainly because it fell on Sept. 1 and many people took long weekend trips before school started,” said Rick Zeckendorf, vice president of travel services for AAA New Jersey.  “Even though it’s later this year (Sept. 7), holiday weekend travel is strong.”

Travel By the Numbers:

• Nationally – 32.9 million (84% of travelers), an 11.8% decrease from the 37.3 million who drove to their destination a year ago.
• New Jersey – 1.2 million (85.8% of travelers), a decrease of 13.3% from last year.
• Nationally – 1.5 million (3.8% of travelers), a decrease of 20 percent over those who took to the skies last year.
• New Jersey – 42,000 (2.9% of travelers), a 21.8% decrease from Labor Day 2008.

Train, Bus, Watercraft or Multi-Modal Travel
• Nationally – 4.8 million (12.2% of travelers), a 20.5% decrease from last year.
• New Jersey – 158,000 (11.2% of all travelers), a decrease of 22% from the 2008 holiday weekend

“More people are projected to travel this holiday weekend than Fourth of July,” continued Zeckendorf.  “This is a positive sign for the travel industry. Like last year, there are plenty of exciting travel deals and discounts available.”

Gas Prices:
Travelers driving to their destinations will find gas prices that are significantly lower than Labor Day 2008.  The current nationwide average price for a gallon of regular gasoline is $2.61 – $1.05 less than the $3.66 per gallon average that motorists paid last year – but 10 cents more than one month ago ($2.51).

In New Jersey, motorists are paying an average of $2.54 for a gallon of regular gasoline – a decrease of 94 cents from Labor Day 2008 ($3.48) – but 15 cents higher than one month ago ($2.43).  Locally, a gallon of regular gasoline in North Jersey is averaging $2.57, down 97 cents from the $3.54 per gallon average one year ago, but up 14 cents from one month ago ($2.43).

Historical Perspective on Labor Day Holiday Gas Prices, average per gallon, in New Jersey:
2009: $2.54 (current as of Aug. 28)
2008: $3.47
2007: $2.53
2006: $2.72
2005: $3.16
2004: $1.82
2003: $1.68
2002: $1.35
2001: $1.39
2000: $1.53

Labor Day travelers will average 645 miles roundtrip.  More than one-third (37%) will stay relatively close to home, with expected trips of 250 miles or less.  Slightly more than one-third (34%) will log between 251 and 700 miles.  Twenty-eight percent will travel over 700 miles roundtrip.

Travelers can expect to spend approximately $968 per household this Labor Day holiday weekend.  Transportation and accommodations will account for 47% ($456) of trip spending. Meals, entertainment and shopping will absorb the remainder of the holiday budget ($512).

According to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, airfares are an estimated 17% less than 2008.  Car rental rates are up 7% compared to last year, with consumers paying an average of $43 per day.  Hotel rates for AAA Two and Three Diamond properties are expected to be about 12% lower than last year, with travelers spending an average of $101 and $132 per night, respectively.

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.

As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 51 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services.  Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers.

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