The summer travel season will begin with a boom Memorial Day weekend, when millions of Americans are expected to travel 50 miles or more for the holiday, the AAA travel club projects.
The predicted travel by 37.2 million Americans would be a 4.7 percent increase from the 35.5 million people who traveled last year. The travel volume would be the highest for the Memorial Day holiday in 10 years, according to AAA. The Memorial Day holiday travel period is from Thursday, May 21, to Monday, May 25.
The projected percent travel increase is the highest one-year jump for travel in a holiday period since July Fourth in 2012, AAA said.
In the Pacific region that includes Washington, Oregon, California, Alaska and Hawaii, Memorial Day travel is expected to increase by 4.6 percent, with nearly 6 million heading away from home.
Marie Dodds, public affairs director for AAA Oregon/Idaho, said in a statement that an improved economy is boosting travel. “A strong employment market and low gas prices have driven consumer optimism to new highs and boosted Americans’ disposable income,” she said.
The national average for gasoline this year is $2.69 per gallon, well below last year’s Memorial Day average of $3.66 per gallon. In Vancouver, last week’s average was $3.01, down from $3.92 one year ago. The Memorial Day prices are the lowest in at least five years.
Nearly nine out of 10 travelers are expected to reach their destinations by automobile, AAA said. That’s a 5.3 percent increase in highway travelers.
About 2.6 million Americans, or 7 percent of holiday travelers, will fly to their destinations, a 2.4 percent increase from last year. The percentage of air travelers climbs to 9.4 percent in the Pacific region, a 2.6 percent increase.
In total, 564,000 travelers in the Pacific region will take to the air. Their good news is that Memorial Day holiday airfares are expected to be 2 percent cheaper this year, with an average lowest round-trip rate of $222 for the top 40 U.S. air routes.
Nationally, travel by modes other than air or automobile is expected to decrease by 3.6 percent, to 1.64 million travelers. Those modes include trains, buses and cruises.
Top regional destinations in the Northwest are the Oregon Coast, Central Oregon, Crater Lake, Ore., and Seattle, AAA said.
AAA’s projections are based on economic forecasting and research by Colorado-based IHS Global Insight.