Fewer in the region to travel over Labor Day weekend

About 30,000 fewer people in the Washington area have Labor Day weekend travel plans than did last year, according to the annual holiday travel survey done by the American Automobile Association.

The local trend mirrors the national picture as economic fears apparently are influencing travel decisions. Overall, 31.5 million people expect to travel 50 miles or more from home, a 2.4 percent decrease from last year. The survey found that 87 percent of those who plan to travel will drive.

“Concerns about the economy combined with increasing airfares have a slightly higher number of travelers driving to their holiday destinations this Labor Day,” said John B. Townsend II, AAA spokesman. “And if recent declines in gasoline prices continue through Labor Day, we could see even more of an increase in the number of people making last-minute holiday weekend travel plans.”

More than 730,000 people plan to take trips of 50 miles or more during the long weekend, with 654,000 of them intending to drive somewhere.

“The significant increase in fuel prices this year over last has influenced the number of Washingtonians traveling during holiday weekends this summer,” noted Townsend. “Since prices have fallen 10 percent since their May peak, they’ll have less of an impact on Labor Day holiday travelers than they had on Memorial Day and Fourth of July holiday travelers.”

The price of gasoline in the Washington area averaged $3.57 per gallon for regular last week, about 90 cents higher than the $2.67 paid one year ago. But, 71 percent of Labor Day holiday travelers said gasoline prices would not impact their travel plans.

Slightly more that 50,000 people said they will fly during the Labor Day holiday weekend, a 2.4 percent decrease from 2010. Rising fuel costs and steady air travel demand have resulted in rising airfares over the past few months.

Ashley Halsey reports on national and local transportation.
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