There’s plenty for would-be travelers to worry about.
A hole in the Gulf floor spews thousands of barrels a day of sticky oil. A European debt crisis shook up financial markets. Storms will soak much of Texas through the Fourth of July weekend.
But as I sit on my porch sipping coffee, watching my lawn drink in what Hurricane Alex’s remnants have left to dump, 34.9 million Americans will be on vacation trips, a whopping 17 percent more than last year, AAA says. Nine out of 10 will go by car.
And why not? Most Gulf beaches remain clean and open. A U.S. economic recovery seems to be holding steady. Most Texas roads, though wet, are open.
Also, gas prices are under $3 a gallon.
So though travelers will spend a little less — on average, $50 less — than last year, the holiday looks much brighter than a year ago.
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The travel outlook for Memorial Day weekend looks about as wobbly as recent stock market swings.
More Americans will be making trips this year, a “sizeable increase” of 5.5 percent from last year and the first gain in five years, according to AAA. But average spending is expected to drop to $809, a “sizeable reduction” from last year’s $1,052.
The Great Recession has been taking a breather, with consumer sentiment, household worth and GDP up from a year ago, the same report says. But jobs have lagged, leaving unemployment 3 percent higher.
The coaster ride doesn’t end there. Travelers face varying price swings this holiday.
Airfare tickets will stay about the same as last year but car rental rates will drop 15 percent and hotel rates will dip slightly, AAA reports.
Gasoline, meanwhile, is selling for 35 to 40 cents a gallon higher than a year ago. In Texas, regular unleaded now averages $2.68, up 37 cents.
Of the 32.1 million people making trips this holiday, 87 percent will go by car.
Though millions of people still look for work, Americans are starting to spend and travel more as a hobbled economy appears to limp toward a long recovery.
Over the Christmas and New Year’s break, 87.7 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home, up 3.8 percent from last year’s bleak season and the largest jump in six years, according to AAA.
That means one in four U.S. residents will soon be on the roads, riding rails or in the air to see friends and family this season. Travelers budgeted an average of $1,009 per household for the holidays, with two-thirds expecting to spend at least as much as they did at this time last year, an AAA survey indicates.
Americans shaken by last year’s economic crash may be regaining enough confidence to hit the roads in higher numbers this Thanksgiving, according to AAA.
When a wobbly economy finally nose-dived last fall, Thanksgiving trips also plunged, by 25 percent from the year before, the travel association reports.
This year, with unemployment higher than it’s been since 1983 despite economic growth last quarter, 38.4 million Americans — one in eight — will travel at least 50 miles from home, up a slight 1.4 percent.
But the numbers, like the economy, could be rickety.