Heavy traffic expected on Memorial Day weekend

More Americans are planning to hit the road this summer compared to 2015, according to the annual summer travel study conducted by GasBuddy.

Over 75 percent said they would be traveling this summer, a 2.2 percent increase from last year, with an overwhelming majority (79 percent) doing so by car.

The staggering differences in gas prices from previous summers are playing a part in the influx of road trips.

At $2.23, the current national average is almost 50 cents per gallon lower today than a year ago. In some states, the drop in even more dramatic — California’s average price is over $1 per gallon cheaper than 2015.

People are noticing too: 26 percent said they will take advantage of low prices compared to just 17 percent saying the same thing last summer.

“Motorists will be filling up their tanks with the cheapest summer gasoline since 2005 and we are finding that more people than ever will be taking advantage by hitting the road,” said Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy. “As we kick off driving season, gas prices will be nearly a dollar per gallon lower than the ten year Memorial Day average of $3.15 per gallon. The incredible part is nationally, we’ll be saving $2.6 billion over the long weekend versus the highest-priced Memorial Day weekend in 2011 at $3.78 per gallon.”

Highlights from GasBuddy’s 2016 Summer Travel Survey

  • People are traveling more for leisure rather than obligation. 53 percent are traveling to relax and take in local culture versus 27 percent seeing family/friends or going to an event. Last year, 51 percent chose vacations for relaxation or culture and 29 percent for visits or events.
  • Over 56 percent will journey on average at least 400 miles round trip.
  • 36 percent plan to take at least two road trips.
  • People are feeling less pressure to stay longer; there was a 4 percent increase in day trips over 2015.

AAA projects more than 38 million Americans will travel this Memorial Day weekend, the second-highest Memorial Day travel volume on record and the most since 2005.

Spurred by the lowest gas prices in more than a decade, 2.1 percent more people will be hitting the highway this year compared to last year. AAA says 89 percent of all travel will be done by car, pickup or RV.

“Americans are ready to travel in numbers not seen in more than a decade,” said Chuck Mai, spokesman for AAA Oklahoma. “The great American road trip is officially back thanks to the lowest Memorial Day gas prices in 11 years.”

AAA Oklahoma expects 657,500 Oklahomans will travel over Memorial Day, an increase of 1.3 percent from Memorial Day, 2015. Auto travel is projected to be up 1.6 percent and air travel up 0.6 percent.

Nationwide, air travel is expected to increase 1.6 percent over last year. With a chronic shortage of TSA security screeners at U.S. airports, AAA recommends those flying to arrive at the airport at least two hours before their flight is due to depart.

Oklahoma’s price average (May 19) of $2.04 for a gallon of gasoline is 41 cents less than on May 19, 2015. According to a recent AAA survey, 55 percent of Americans say they are more likely to take a road trip this year due to lower gas prices.

The national pump price average is $2.26, a decline of 45 cents from the price one year ago.

According to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, average airfares for the top 40 domestic flight routes will be 26 percent cheaper this Memorial Day, with an average roundtrip ticket costing $165. Hotel costs are in line with last Memorial Day. AAA Three Diamond-rated hotels will average $183, while a AAA Two Diamond-rated hotel will average $151 nightly. Daily car rental rates will average $62, three percent less than last year.

Many Memorial Day travelers will head to warm weather destinations and historic American cities to kick off their summer travels. The top destinations this Memorial Day weekend, based on AAA.com and AAA travel agency sales, are: Orlando, Boston, Honolulu, Los Angeles, South Padre Island, San Francisco, Myrtle Beach, Washington, D.C., New York and Miami.