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Higher gas prices won't deter record number of Californians from traveling for Memorial Day

Higher gas prices won't deter record number of Californians from traveling for Memorial Day
Traffic gets heavy at the start of the Memorial Day weekend on the Pacific Coast Highway on May 27, 2011. The 2018 holiday weekend is expected to draw a record number of Californians to travel, despite higher gas prices. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

Gas prices are up statewide, but that is not deterring Californians from planning to travel in record numbers during the upcoming Memorial Day holiday.

Although prices have increased 24% over last year, the Auto Club of Southern California predicts 5.19 million Californians will get away for the three-day weekend, breaking the previous pre-recession travel record of 5.18 million set in 2005.

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The 5.3% increase in travelers over last year is primarily due to high consumer confidence and a strong labor market, according to Jeffrey Spring, an Auto Club spokesman.

Statewide, about 84% of holiday travelers are expected to drive by car on their vacation, going at least 50 miles away from home, the Auto Club said.

The increase in Memorial Day drivers comes despite gas prices statewide that now average $3.69 for a gallon of regular, up from $2.98 last year at this time. In the Los Angeles-Long Beach region, the average price of a gallon of regular gas is $3.75, up from $3.01 per gallon last year, according to the Auto Club.

Another 528,000 Californians plan to fly to their vacation destination, a 7.5% increase from last year, the Auto Club said.

Unlike rising gasoline prices, airfares in the U.S. have, on average, been on the decline or flat, when adjusted for inflation. The average domestic airfare for 2017 was $348, down 2.5% from $357 in 2016, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

The 2017 average was the lowest annual inflation-adjusted airfare in 23 years, according to the federal bureau.

To read more about the travel and tourism industries, follow @hugomartin on Twitter.

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