Millions of people are going to be taking to the nation's highways over the Memorial Day weekend – May 21 – 25, and unlike the last few years, they're going to feel a little better about it.
Since 2008 refueling stops on the first unofficial weekend of summer were filled with angst. In 2011 prices had just peaked at a national average price of just under $4 a gallon when the holiday weekend arrived.
Gasoline prices vary state to state but most drivers will likely see the lowest Memorial Day pump prices in at least 5 years. The recent national average price of $2.66 a gallon suggests rising prices during the spring, due to refinery maintenance and the switch-over to summer blends of fuel, has just about peaked.
$1 a gallon less
Even at that elevated price – about 26 cents a gallon more than a month ago -- fuel is $1.00 less than last year's average Memorial Day price.
Travel is expected to be up all the way around with AAA projecting that 88% will travel by car and another 2.6 million booking flights on airlines, an increase of 2.5% from last year.
While gasoline prices and air fares are down travelers may find it more expensive this year to stay in a hotel. Still, AAA says many consumers are ready to splurge a little.
"Following a harsh winter, many Americans are trading in their snow boots for flip flops and making plans to start the season with a vacation getaway," said Marshall L. Doney, president of AAA. "AAA is expecting more Memorial Day travelers this year than any time in the past 10 years as confident consumers come out of hibernation ready to explore national parks, beach destinations and America's great cities."
Lower gasoline prices, which have yet to make much of an impact on economic data over the last 6 months, may finally be showing up. Doney says savings at the gas pump, along with more encouraging hiring data from U.S. employers, are lifting both consumers' optimism and their disposable income.
For travelers hitting the road a couple of weeks from now, AAA has some advice; inspect your car – particularly battery and tire condition – before heading out on a holiday getaway. AAA says its principal Memorial Day weekend road service calls are for flat tires and dead batteries, along with lock-outs.
If you plan to travel by air to your holiday weekend destination, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) reminds travelers to plan for extra time to clear security.
TSA said it screens approximately 1.8 million passengers each day at more than 450 airports nationwide. During major holidays, including the Memorial Day travel period, TSA sees a spike in the number of passengers screened at airport checkpoints across the country.
If you or a member of your party has disabilities or medical conditions that make air travel difficult there's a special TSA hot line that will answer questions about screening policies, procedures and what to expect at the security checkpoint. Injured service members and veterans including individuals associated with a wounded warrior program may contact TSA Cares to help facilitate the screening process.
The hotline number is 1-855-787-2227.