Labor Day Travel Could Hit Nine-Year High

Western U.S. expected to generate greatest number of travelers; 80 percent to go by car

Labor Day travel is expected to be the highest in at least nine years with more than 33.4 million Americans projected to travel 50 miles or more from home this holiday, according to AAA.

In a boost for the West, the greatest number of auto travelers is expected to originate in the region nearly 6.9 million as well as the largest number of air travelers about 1.4 million, AAA said in its annual forecast.

More than 80 percent of all holiday travelers about 28.2 million are expected to go by car, despite rising gas prices across the country.

Experts have estimated prices for regular, unleaded gasoline have risen an average 5 cents a gallon in recent weeks.

AAA last week estimated that 33.4 million Americans would be on the road this holiday weekend, up by about 1.8 percent from last year welcome news for a travel industry that has been sluggish most of the year.

The previous high for Labor Day travel was 33.2 million in 1995, AAA said.

“The early arrival of Labor Day will cut summer short for many families, placing a bit more emphasis on this last shot at summer vacation,” said AAA Travel Vice President Sandra Hughes.

In an effort to capture potential summer and fall travelers, some in the industry have begun offering special incentives. Last week, began offering a free tank of gas, up to $20, for travelers booking rooms on its Web site through Sept. 30 for stays through Dec. 31.

“We are seeing more people choosing to travel closer to home and the popularity of drive-to destinations is on the rise,” Bob Diener, president and co-founder of, said in a statement.

Air travel continues to remain sluggish, with about 3.7 million travelers, or 11 percent, expected to fly, down 2.6 percent from last year.

Nearly 30 percent of travelers said their top destination would be a city; 21 percent, towns and rural areas; 18 percent, oceans and beaches; 11 percent, lakes; 8 percent, mountains; 4 percent, state/ national parks; 2 percent, theme/ amusement parks.

Nearly half of all travelers said they expect to stay in a hotel or motel. The survey is a national telephone poll of 1,300 adults by the Travel Industry Association of American, which conducts special research for AAA.