AAA projects that 34.9 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home during the Memorial Day holiday weekend, a slight increase of 0.2 percent—or 100,000 travelers—from the 34.8 million people who traveled one year ago.
The travel organization said two themes dominate this year's Memorial Day travel projections: First, following one of the largest year-over-year increases in travel in 2010, this year's numbers will be more modest. Second, some travelers will find ways to compensate for near-record fuel costs by cutting other areas of their travel budgets.
Based on regional predictions for travel originating in the Rocky Mountain states, the approximate number of Idahoans traveling 50 miles or more during the holiday period is expected to be 188,000.
"Weather permitting—and consistent with anecdotal information from our travel planners—we believe Idaho travelers will opt for camping trips and outdoor activities closer to home," AAA Idaho spokesman Dave Carlson said.
AAA's predictions are based on economic forecasting and research by IHS Global Insight. The Boston-based consulting firm said positive economic indicators, including a decline in unemployment and greater household disposable income, will not be enough to erase the uncertainty surrounding this year's higher gas prices. Still, travel should show a modest increase this year over last.
The holiday travel period is defined as Thursday, May 26, to Monday, May 30.
A survey of intended travelers found that high gas prices would not affect the travel plans of nearly 6 in 10 drivers (58 percent). Of the remaining four of 10 travelers who said gas prices would impact their travel plans, 70 percent said they will economize in other areas, and the rest said they will take a shorter trip or travel by an alternate mode of transportation.
Despite a U.S. average gas price that is more than a dollar higher this year—$3.91 per gallon compared to $2.85—a dominant majority of all travelers, 88 percent, said they will go by car on the holiday.
Idaho's average gas price is $3.77, up 67 cents from a year ago, when the state's motorists were paying $3.10 a gallon. AAA noted that Idaho's average price a year ago was among the highest in the country.
AAA said that barring any unforeseen developments, recent drops in oil and gasoline futures prices should soon be reflected as lower prices at the pump.