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AAA: More will travel for holiday

COVINGTON -- AAA Auto Club South is anticipating that more travelers will be on the road this Labor Day weekend than last year, and they may be paying less at the gas pumps.

"We're expecting a decline of a few cents (in gas prices) going into the Labor Day weekend or else they will stay relatively the same," said AAA spokeswoman Jessica Brady, citing an expected dip in crude oil prices at the end of the week.

Motorists will still be paying more at the pump than they did last year; however, with the per gallon average in Georgia at $2.53 on Wednesday, compared to $2.44 in 2009. The national average per gallon price was at $2.67 on Wednesday.

The number of travelers on the road this holiday weekend is expected to increase by 9.9 percent from 2009, based on economic forecasting and research by AAA and IHS Global Insight. AAA has projected approximately 34.4 million Americans will take a trip at least 50 miles away from home. Last year, an estimated 31.3 million took a long journey over the holiday. The Labor Day holiday travel period is considered to be Thursday through Monday.

Approximately 91 percent of travelers will reach their destination by driving, while air travel is expected to account for 5 percent of overall travel. Four percent of travelers will use other transportation modes such as rail, bus and watercraft.

"People weren't traveling (last year). I think they weren't in a position to travel; the unemployment rate was much higher, and I think people were a little more concerned with what could happen in the future and didn't want to take any chances," Brady said.

Travelers are also expected to spend more money this year, with median spending expected to be $697, nearly $50 more than last year. Dining, shopping and visiting with friends and relatives were named as the three top primary activities by travelers this Labor Day weekend.

Airfare, hotels and rental car rates are expected to increase this year, according to AAA's Leisure Travel Index.

Airfares are projected to increase 9 percent from last year, with the lowest round trip rates moving up to $179 for the top 40 U.S. air rates. Weekend daily car rental rates will increase 7 percent to an average of $46. Hotel rates for AAA lodgings are expected to increase between 2 and 6 percent.