Memorial Day travel may be slightly down; summer outlook strong

Summer travel season expected to increase

lmorris@macon.comMay 24, 2013 

Travel_Holiday

Cars travel along I-475 on Friday. Memorial Day travel volume is expected to be about the same as 2012, according to AAA Travel, The Auto Club Group.

WOODY MARSHALL — wmarshall@macon.com Buy Photo

For most of her life, Lori Burnette and her family have traveled to Fernandina Beach, Fla., for Memorial Day weekend.

The tradition continues.

Burnette, a 40-year-old from Jasper, and her mother, Janice Burnette of Cleveland, stopped Friday at the Macon-Bibb County Convention and Visitors Center welcome center off Interstate 75 South. Other family members will join them at the beach.

The Burnettes are among the 34.8 million travelers nationwide who are expected to journey 50 miles or more from home during the weekend, a small drop from the 35.1 million people who traveled during Memorial Day last year, according to a news release from AAA Travel, The Auto Club Group.

The Burnettes are driving more than 400 miles to their destination during this holiday travel period, defined by AAA as Thursday through Monday.

“Although AAA expects to see more people traveling this summer as a whole, it looks like the summer travel season will begin with a relatively stable start,” AAA spokeswoman Jessica Brady said. “However, more Americans traveled during last year’s holiday weekend than initially projected, so we could again be surprised by an increase in people planning to take a trip this Memorial Day.”

Visitors to the welcome center have “definitely picked up” in recent days, said Lance Sullivan, information specialist with the CVB. “It seems like the traffic started a lot earlier” than it has for other three-day holidays. “We’ve already had close to 220 people come in today (by 2:30 p.m. Friday).”

Of the people who signed the welcome center’s guest book Friday, most were heading to Florida, with a few going to Savannah and Macon. Visitors hailed from such places as Ireland, Ohio, Illinois, Michigan, Tennessee and Kansas.

Lindsey Bailey and her boyfriend, Ralph Bellamy, from Sandy Springs were headed to visit Bailey’s family in Savannah for the weekend.

And Mona Roberts, from near Louisville, Ky., and her husband and sister-in-law were headed to a condo in Ponce Inlet, Fla.

Gas prices, which nationally averaged about $3.65 per gallon Friday, didn’t really influence their travel plans, Roberts said.

“My husband and I usually go south every year,” she said. “We are used to (the gas prices). Sometimes we fly ... if the rates are reasonable.”

The average gas price a year ago was $3.64 a gallon, five years ago it was $3.94 a gallon and 10 years ago was $1.49 a gallon, according to GasBuddy.com.

“Gas prices are not expected to have much of an effect on holiday travel,” said Brady with AAA. “Despite the flat travel numbers, travel volumes are expected to remain above the historical average of 34.7 million travelers. The majority of people plan to spend about $660 on their trip.”

To contact writer Linda S. Morris, call 744-4223.

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