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Memorial Day travel expected to be highest in 10 years

Gasoline prices are up about 87 cents per gallon over a month ago

The highest number of Southern Californians in a decade are expected to travel this Memorial Day weekend, kicking off what could be a strong summer travel season.

About 2.76 million Southern Californians are expected to travel over the holiday weekend, a 4.6% increase from last year and the most since 2005, according to the annual Auto Club of Southern California forecast.

In 2005, a record 3.2 million Southern Californians traveled for the holiday, the Auto Club said.

Auto Club officials attribute the boost in travel to high consumer confidence in the economy and a strong U.S. dollar. Auto Club officials say the increase suggests a busy summer travel season, barring an economic downturn.

"This holiday weekend is a promising start to the summer travel season, and it shows that Southern Californians are placing a high value on travel and feel confident that they can spend money on it," said Filomena Andre, the Auto Club's vice president for travel.

A recent spike in gasoline prices may not dissuade many Southern Californians from planning road trips; 83% of vacationers will travel by car, the Auto Club predicted. The average cost of a gallon of regular gasoline in the Los Angeles area is $4, up from $3.13 a month ago but down from $4.20 per gallon a year ago.

The most popular destinations for travelers from Southern California will be San Diego, San Francisco, the Grand Canyon, Mexico and Las Vegas.

Nationwide, 37.2 million Americans plan to travel over the holiday weekend, a 4.7% increase over last year.

To read more about travel, tourism and the airline industry, follow me on Twitter at @hugomartin.

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