Summer Travel Season Kicks Off Right Now

Summer travel season traditionally starts on Memorial Day then ends on Labor Day. Nothing new there. This year though, there are solid signs that the summer travel season could very well be back up to pre-recession levels with Americans traveling more than ever before.

Helped by a dip in gas prices in many areas, Memorial Day weekend travel should start the summer off with a bang as 34.8 million Americans are expected to travel 50 or more miles from home between Friday and Monday. But even in places where the price of gasoline is higher, summer travel is a big priority.

“High debt burdens, gasoline prices, and uncertainties regarding the strength of the current economic recovery have not deterred Californians from holiday travel,” said AAA spokesperson Cynthia Harris in the Newark Patch. “But many consumers intend to cut back on the distance they travel, as well on entertainment expenses, to compensate for reduced travel budgets.”

To make those cutbacks, travelers may book less expensive budget hotels rather than a resort-style property. Best Western International told Gadling that advance summer bookings at the chain’s hotels are up 21 percent this summer compared to summer 2011.”Early numbers not only show bookings are up, but travelers are staying longer with length of stay growing by 4 percent over last year,” said Best Western in an email. “In addition, data shows advance bookings are up throughout the U.S. at suburban properties by 20 percent; at in-town hotels by 19 percent; and at resort properties by 18 percent.”

How we get there is another matter. Airlines buzzing about an increase in fares has many travelers in the car for summer travel, and for good reason. Going forward, “the trend for gasoline prices continues to be down,” oil industry analyst Phil Flynn told the Chicago Sun-Times

Overall, AAA expects travel to be up about 1.5 percent.

“It’s not a huge increase but it is significant in the sense that we’re not having a decrease like we have shown in years past.”

[Flickr photo by Wubbo Sieger]