Despite record-high gasoline prices and a shaky economy, the number of Americans planning road trips for the Memorial Day weekend has dropped only slightly from last year, according to a survey released Thursday by AAA.
The country's economic woes also will do little to discourage Americans from heading to the airports for next week's long weekend, according to the online survey of 2,000 adults, which the Travel Industry Assn. conducted and analyzed for AAA.
About 31.7 million Americans plan to travel by car that weekend, a decline of about 1% from the 32 million a year earlier, AAA said. About 4.35 million people plan to travel by air, slightly fewer than 4.37 million who took to the skies during the three-day period last year.
Over the last year, average fuel costs nationwide have jumped 67 cents to $3.78 a gallon. In California, the average is now a record $3.94 a gallon. AAA predicts airfares will be about 8% higher this Memorial Day weekend compared with last year's.
Still, surveys and polls over the last few years have shown that when fuel costs climb, travelers shorten their trips or cut back on extraneous expenses such as shopping to help make up the difference.
"The cost of gas is one of those things they don't have control over, so they cut back on other things," AAA spokesman Mike Pina said.
This trend holds true for owners of recreational vehicles, the behemoth land yachts that get as little as seven miles to the gallon. Seventy-six percent of RV owners surveyed said they still planned to travel via RV this spring and summer but will probably take shorter trips, a recent survey by the Recreation Vehicle Industry Assn. found.
"People will still take their RVs out," said the organization's spokesman, Kevin Broom, "but they will stay closer to home."