Labor Day Travel Expected to Be Up
While holiday travel on the roads is expected to see a 2.3 percent increase over post-Katrina travel last year, stricter carry-on luggage rules may have cooled air travel plans for the Labor Day holiday weekend.
More than 816,000 North Carolinians and 400,000 South Carolinians are expected to drive more than 50 miles from home this holiday weekend, according to AAA Carolinas. However, air travel is expected to be about 1 percent less than last year, totaling 139,000 North Carolinians and 68,000 South Carolinians flying.
One year after Katrina sent gas prices skyrocketing to more than $3 a gallon and supply issues crimped the nation's traveling spirit, gas prices, for the past two weeks, have been dropping.
Labor Day weekend last year began with a North Carolina average gas price at $2.55 a gallon and a South Carolina average of $2.45, but quickly ran up to new records of $3.18 and $3.15, respectively, by Monday, Sept. 5. Hurricane Katrina made landfall in the Gulf on Aug. 29, 2005.
Current prices have been dropping since a cease-fire reached between Hezbollah and Israel led crude oil prices to drop for two weeks to below $71 a barrel. The North Carolina average is currently $2.80, and South Carolina's average has fallen to $2.67, the lowest in both states since June 30.
"Even though the kids are back in school, this holiday is still considered a last hurrah for summer," said Dave Parsons, CEO and president of AAA Carolinas.
Those driving this weekend will find the most expensive gas price average in South Carolina at $2.78 in Myrtle Beach, while the lowest average can be found in Spartanburg at $2.54.
In North Carolina, the city with the highest average of gas is Charlotte with an average of $2.88 per gallon of regular, unleaded gasoline. The lowest average can be found in Wilmington at $2.68.
No construction delays are expected in either state, according to both Departments of Transportation.
Last year North Carolina recorded 17 highway deaths, up one from 2004, and South Carolina recorded 16 (double the number of deaths in 2004).
As for the airports, frequent flyers accustomed to packing only a carry-on are now either forced to check in baggage or purchase all liquids including lotion, liquid lipsticks and other cosmetics once arriving at the destination. And with the changes, the Transportation Security Administration has seen a 20 percent increase in checked baggage since the ban went into effect Aug. 10.
Nationally, AAA estimates 29.6 million travelers will drive and another 3.9 million will fly. A projected 1.6 million vacationers will go by train, bus or other mode of transportation, down from about 1.7 million a year ago.
Holiday auto travelers will find gas prices nationwide currently averaging $2.85 for a gallon of self-serve regular gasoline.
AAA's Leisure Travel Index shows other vacation costs up from Labor Day 2005.
Hotel rates have increased, averaging 5 percent higher for a moderately priced hotel room for the 20 top destinations used in the comparison. Car rental rates have skyrocketed, increasing by an average of 14 percent from last year's prices, while airfares have decreased about 1 percent.
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