Jim Rink (313) 336-1513
An estimated 1.2 million Michiganians have Labor Day holiday travel plans, according to a recent survey by AAA. Of this number, 1 million will travel by car and 87,000 will travel by air.
The number of auto travelers in the Great Lakes region, including Michigan, is down 0.8 percent from last year and the number of air travelers is down 8.1 percent.
AAA’s Leisure Travel Index shows most vacation costs up from Labor Day 2007, while others are unchanged. Nationwide, hotel rates for AAA 3 Diamond hotels are unchanged. Car rental rates are up 2 percent and air fares are up 15 percent.
“While the overall numbers are down slightly from last year, it is important to note that more Michigan residents are spending their vacation dollars in Michigan,” said Claire Lockley, vice president Travel for The Auto Club Group (ACG). “Lower gas prices may help invigorate travel during the waning days of the summer travel season. Labor Day is also a good time for last-minute cruise and tour specials.”
This year’s Labor Day travel period caps a summer of high gas prices and a sluggish economy. As of August 22, the average Michigan price was $3.798 per gallon for self-serve regular fuel (78.3 cents higher than last year).
AAA’s gas saving tips for vacation travelers include:
- Take the most direct route, reduce your chances of getting lost and avoid known holiday traffic bottlenecks by getting directions with AAA.com’s TripTik® travel planner or from public Web sites like www.AAAmaps.com.
- Shop around for the least expensive gas by watching prices before you need to fill-up. AAA’s Fuel Finder website helps drivers find the lowest cost fuel at local stations. Access the AAA Fuel Finder at local AAA club websites.
- Drive your most fuel efficient vehicle that works for your trip.
- Know before you go by using AAA’s www.fuelcostcalculator.com website. Just plug in the make and model of your car and where you are traveling and you will get an estimate of how much you will be spending on gas for the trip.
- Keep your car well-maintained by keeping tires properly inflated and having a professional technician inspect your vehicle before you go.
- Drive gently. Excessive braking and accelerating reduces fuel economy, as does driving faster than highway speed limits.
For those who are flying to their final Labor Day destination, AAA travel agents offer the following tips for budget-conscious travelers:
- Be flexible with travel dates; be willing to travel midweek versus the weekend.
- Book your trip early.
- Check on reduced airfares if booking a hotel or car rental at the same time.
- Investigate the costs of staying offsite versus onsite for a particular destination, such as a theme park.
- If flying, try alternate airports.
- Pack snacks in a carry-on that can serve as a quick lunch.
- Review your insurance policies prior to departure to determine if you need extra coverage, such as with a rental car company.
For state residents planning a summer vacation, the 10 most popular driving destinations are:
1) Niagara Falls ON
2) Chicago IL
3) Myrtle Beach SC
4) Nashville TN
5) Washington DC
6) Cleveland OH
7) Mackinaw City MI
8) Yellowstone National Park WY
9) Toronto ON
10) Traverse City MI
For the first time, two Michigan destinations have been ranked in the Top 10, signifying that more state residents are traveling in Michigan, staying closer to home. Tourism in Michigan is a $15-billion-a-year industry, and the state remains one of the best travel values.
According to the 2008 edition of AAA’s Annual Vacation Costs Survey, the recommended travel budget for two adults traveling together in Michigan is $211.19 per day for lodging and meals -- $33 less than the national average of $244 per day.
The official 78-hour Labor Day holiday period begins at 6 p.m. Friday, (August 29) and runs to 11:59 p.m. Monday, (September 1).
During last year’s Labor Day holiday period, 12 people died in 11 fatal crashes on roads across the state. That was up from the 2006 holiday, when 8 people died in 8 fatal crashes. Three of last year’s fatal crashes were alcohol-related. Of the 12 victims killed, 4 were not restrained.
To reduce these numbers this Labor Day holiday, all drivers are urged to use safety belts, avoid alcohol, stay alert at the wheel and observe all traffic laws.
Michigan law enforcement agencies will embark on a new program to make this the safest summer on record by continuing increased traffic patrols to strictly enforce safety belt and drunk driving laws. The enhanced traffic enforcement effort is being supported by federal traffic safety funds.
The Auto Club advises motorists to plan ahead and allow extra time to navigate construction areas on the state’s highways.
For traffic and detour information, motorists can call 1-800-AAA-MICH (222-6424). Or, before leaving, check the AAA Michigan Web site, www.aaatraffic.com
, for updated traffic information.
*** FOR MEDIA ONLY*** Sign up for a free news service delivered to your in-box every Thursday – the AAA Hot Zone Report, which provides a list of the top 10 construction slow-downs statewide. Formatted for print, the AAA Hot Zone Report can be cut and pasted as desired by subscribers. To sign up, send your e-mail address to Dpearson@aaamichigan.com.