For the second year in a row, the number of Memorial Day travelers from Southern California will keep pace with the 2010 partial recovery from the recession years of 2008 and 2009, according to the Automobile Club of Southern California.
About 2.6 million Southland residents are expected to take overnight getaways at least 50 miles away from home this holiday weekend – an increase of 1.6 percent from last year’s 2.56 million and almost identical to the 2.61 million local residents who traveled in 2010. The vast majority of local travelers – 2.19 million – will go by car, which is an increase of 1.7 percent from 2011. However, the number of air travelers is expected to decline by 5.1 percent, from 260,000 in 2011 to 247,000 this year.
Statewide, Memorial Day travel also is expected to increase slightly. In California, 4.18 million holiday travelers are expected, compared to 4.12 million last year. Eighty-five percent of them, or 3.52 million, are expected to drive, a 1.7 percent increase over last year’s 3.47 million car travelers. This holiday weekend, 397,000 are projected to fly to holiday destinations, a 5.1 percent drop from last year’s 419,000 air travelers.
Nationwide, total holiday travel is also expected to increase by 1.2 percent to 34.76 million, with 30.67 million driving (a 1.2 percent increase) and 2.5 million flying (a 5.5 percent decrease) to their Memorial Day destinations.
“With airfares moving much higher in recent months, we had fewer air travel advance bookings for the summer, and instead travelers were looking for a better value for their money with options such as drive vacations, domestic tours and cruises," said Filomena Andre, the Auto Club's vice president for travel products and services. "Even with gas prices above $4 a gallon, it’s less expensive to drive than to fly for most Memorial Day getaways. It’s fortunate that here in California we have so many driving-distance travel destinations that provide great experiences for almost any budget."
The top Memorial Day destinations for Southern California travelers, according to a survey of AAA Travel agents, are:
1) San Diego
2) Las Vegas
3) Grand Canyon
4) San Francisco
5) Central Coast (Santa Barbara to Monterey)
Gas prices moved up in the last couple of weeks to their highest levels so far of 2012. To budget for vacation and save money on gas during Memorial Day and summer getaways, the Auto Club recommends:
- Check FuelCostCalculator.AAA.com before leaving to budget your drive trip with real-time gas price estimates based on the make, model and year of your vehicle.
- Before leaving, check your tire pressure when the tires are cold. Also inspect hoses, belts and fluid levels in your vehicle, or have them inspected by a trustworthy mechanic.
- Use FuelGaugeReport.AAA.com to check daily gas price averages for metropolitan areas around the U.S. and try to patronize gas stations below that average price. To find the lowest priced stations, use an online app like AAA’s TripTik Mobile.
- Travel during off-peak times to avoid congestion, which wastes fuel.
- Skip the drive-through when getting food for the road, which is likely to waste more gas than stopping and restarting the car. Parking also allows everyone to get out and stretch their legs.
- Drive gently, as if a raw egg was under your gas and brake pedals. Accelerating and braking gradually by anticipating traffic conditions will greatly improve your fuel economy.
Also, plan your route ahead of time and bring along a map in case you need to choose an alternate route. Motorists can call the California Highway Information Number at (800) 427-7623 for interstate and state route lane closures and highway closures. The information is updated hourly.