Jim Rink (313) 336-1513
An estimated 1.3 million Michiganians will travel during the upcoming Memorial Day weekend, launching the start of the 2008 summer travel season, says AAA Michigan.
According to a national survey conducted for AAA by the Travel Industry Association of America (TIA), record fuel prices and challenging economic times will alter travel plans for some Americans.
"Many residents will travel more economically -- looking for the best travel bargain for their dollars this upcoming holiday weekend," said Claire Lockley, vice president of Travel for The Auto Club Group (ACG), including AAA Michigan. To cope with rising gas prices, this summer many families will drive shorter distances, spend fewer nights away from home, and spend less on hotels, restaurants, souvenirs and shopping.
As of May 14, the statewide average for self-serve, regular gasoline was $3.891 -- 60.7 cents more per gallon than a year ago.
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.
Travelers will find air fares up slightly this year: AAA's Leisure Travel Index shows flights over the holiday weekend averaging 8 percent higher this year than last year. Car rental rates are expected to increase more dramatically -- up 45 percent from last year, with renters paying an average of $44.70, almost $14 more than last year. Hotel rates for Three-Diamond properties will be down about 7 percent nationwide, with travelers spending an average of $161.85 per night.
For Michigan residents planning a summer vacation, the 10 most popular driving destinations, based on requests to AAA Auto Travel counselors, are:
- Niagara Falls, ON
- Myrtle Beach, SC
- Chicago, IL
- Branson, MO
- Williamsburg, VA
- Washington, D.C.
- Cedar Point, OH
- Orlando, FL
- Hilton Head Island, SC
- Virginia Beach, VA
AAA's national survey contacted 2,000 U.S. residents, supplemented by an additional 6,500 Americans surveyed from the top 10 states -- including Michigan -- of travel origin in the U.S. Respondents provided these insights into Memorial Day travel:
- The greatest number of Memorial Day auto travelers will originate in the West with 7.6 million travelers, followed by the Southeast with 6.8 million; Midwest, 6.7 million; Northeast, 5.8 million; and Great Lakes, 4.8 million.
- The West is expected to produce the largest number of air travelers with 1.37 million, followed by the Midwest with 1.18 million; Southeast, 870,000; Northeast, 545,000; and Great Lakes, 384,000.
The 78-hour Memorial Day weekend officially begins: 6 p.m., Friday, May 23 and ends 11:59 p.m., Monday, May 26. During Memorial Day weekend in 2007, 12 people were killed in 10 fatal crashes in Michigan, a decrease from the 18 killed in 17 fatal crashes in 2006. Four of last year's victims were belted. Alcohol was a factor in four of the fatal crashes.
This year, Michigan law enforcement agencies will focus extra attention on unbuckled motorists to make this the safest Memorial Day on record. 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 1-800-411-4823. Or, before leaving, check the AAA Michigan Web site, www.aaatraffic.com, for updated traffic information.