AAA projects the number of Americans traveling this Labor Day holiday weekend will increase 4.2 percent from 2012, with approximately 34.1 million travelers or 10.7 percent of the population taking a trip at least 50 miles away from home. The Labor Day holiday travel period is defined as Thursday, August 29 to Monday, September 2.
In the Pacific Region, (AK, CA, HI, OR, WA), Labor Day travel is expected to increase by 5.7 percent, with 5.3 million people or 10.3 percent of the population taking trips.
"The anticipated increase in holiday travel is predominantly due to the increasingly positive economic outlook, including increased consumer spending and the improving housing market," says AAA Oregon/Idaho Public Affairs Director Marie Dodds. "The total number of 2013 Labor Day holiday travelers is expected to reach a new post-recession high."
The date of the Labor Day holiday is another variable that can impact travel. Observed on the first Monday in September, Labor Day can fall anywhere from September 1 through 7. When the holiday falls earlier in September, more travel tends to take place. For example, the three highest-volume holiday travel years since 2000 have come in 2008, 2003, and 2002, when Labor Day fell on either September 1 or 2. This year, Labor Day is September 2, which is one day earlier in the month than last year. While not an overriding factor, Labor Day falling earlier within its potential window is another factor supporting an increase in expected travel volume.
August 30th is busiest travel day
The largest share of travelers (46 percent) on a single day will depart on Friday, August 30 and the largest share will return on Monday, September 2 (43 percent), taking full advantage of a long weekend. Eighty-five percent intend to return from their Labor Day trip on Monday, Tuesday, or later.
Most travelers will go by car
Automobile travel remains the dominant mode of holiday transportation. Approximately 29.2 million people (85 percent of holiday travelers) plan to go by car, considered the most convenient mode of travel for many Americans. This is a 4.3 percent increase over the 28 million people who took to the nation's roadways in 2012.
In the Pacific Region, 4.2 million travelers (79 percent of holiday travelers) plan to drive to their Labor Day destinations, a six percent increase over last year.
"It's not surprising that the vast majority of travelers will drive to their Labor Day destinations. Driving provides flexibility and is usually less expensive than flying," says Dodds.
"We've seen an increase in auto travel this summer at AAA Oregon/Idaho," adds Loofburrow. "Utah and its five national parks are very popular destinations, as are all of the national parks of the West. Central Oregon, the entire Oregon coast and Crater Lake are always hot spots. There are some Labor Day specials on getaways to Las Vegas, Palm Springs and Phoenix. Those still wanting a summer visit with Mickey Mouse can find some good deals at Disneyland and Disney World."
Impact of gas prices on travel plans
Gas prices are unlikely to be a major factor for people in determining whether they will travel this Labor Day. As of mid-August, prices were on average down 2.7 percent per gallon compared to the same time year.
The national average on Labor Day 2012 was $3.83 per gallon, the most expensive average ever on record for the holiday. The current national average price for a gallon of regular gas is $3.54.
The Oregon average on Labor Day 2012 was $3.99. The current Oregon average is $3.77.
AAA forecasts gas prices to remain less expensive than last year based on current trends through the middle of August, but there remains the potential for late-summer hurricanes and refinery problems that could send prices higher. In addition, violence in Egypt may put additional upward pressure on crude oil prices.
Number of air travelers up, airfares increase
More than 2.61 million leisure travelers (eight percent of holiday travelers) will fly to their destinations, an increase of 2.8 percent over last year.
In the Pacific Region, 690,000 travelers (13 percent of holiday travelers) are expected to fly during the Labor Day holiday weekend, an increase of 4.2 percent from 2012.
Dodds says, "The Pacific region typically sees a higher than average share of its population expected to travel by air, as we are geographically more spread out in this region. This is indeed the case for Labor Day 2013."
Airfares are up four percent compared to last year with an average lowest round-trip rate of $214 for the top 40 U.S. air routes, according to AAA's Leisure Travel Index.
Travel by other modes of transportation increases
Nationally, the remaining seven percent of holiday travelers are expected to travel by other modes, including cruise ship, rail, and bus, accounting for 2.3 million Americans – an increase of 4.3 percent over last year.
Hotel rates increase or decrease, depending on type of property; car rental rates increase
Labor Day holiday hotel rates for AAA Three Diamond lodgings are expected to increase four percent from a year ago with travelers spending an average of $161 per night compared to $154 last year. Travelers planning to stay at AAA Two Diamond hotels can expect to pay two percent less than last year at an average cost of $115 per night.
Weekend daily car rental rates will average $51, a 32 percent increase from $39 a year ago.