Looks like a busy Labor Day for travel
Falling gas prices and an improving economy are contributing to an increase in Labor Day holiday travel for the third straight year for North Carolinians, making it the highest number of travelers in seven years, according to AAA Carolinas.
An expected 1,021,800 Tar Heel state residents — a 1 percent increase from 2014 — are expected to travel 50 miles or more from home. Of those travelers, 880,000 (86 percent) will be driving.
Those driving will encounter the lowest gas prices this holiday in 11 years. North Carolina’s statewide average today is $2.22 per gallon.
Motorists were paying $1.10 more per gallon statewide a year ago on Labor Day. Gas prices in North Carolina have fallen 43 cents a gallon since July 4th, allowing consumers to keep more money in their wallets and spend slightly more on hotels and food.
“Lower gas prices and an extended weekend should motivate North Carolinians to hop in their vehicles for one more family road trip as the summer travel season comes to a close,” said Dave Parsons, CEO and president of AAA Carolinas.
“We’ll have more motorists on the road than last year and it’s the perfect time to remind everyone to practice safe driving habits including not drinking and driving, adhering to speed limits, and eliminating distractions behind the wheel such as cell phone use.”
The most expensive gas in the state is in Asheville at $2.36 and the least expensive is in the Greensboro-Winston-Salem-High Point area at $2.16.
Traveling south, motorists will find the cheapest gas in the nation in South Carolina, with an average price of $2.01. Further south, the averages are higher at $2.28 in Georgia and $2.29 in Florida. Heading north, Virginia’s at $2.18 and going west, Tennessee’s average is $2.14. Kentucky is North Carolina’s highest priced neighbor with an average price of $2.32.
Top driving destinations this holiday are Myrtle Beach, Greensboro, Orlando, Gatlinburg and Asheville, according to AAA Vacations, the largest leisure travel agency in the Carolinas, which tracks personalized drive trip routes.
While most North Carolinians will be driving, an estimated 81,800 will travel by air, while 60,500 will go by other modes of transportation like train, bus or cruise. Both numbers are about the same as last year.
Airfares are down 1 percent this year, with an average lowest round-trip fare of $216, down from $219 last year, according to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index.
The top flight destinations for the Labor Day Holiday include Orlando, Seattle, Miami, Vancouver, London and Rome.
“Unrest in the Middle East is not expected to push gas prices higher as analysts have assessed the potential for a disruption of oil supply to be limited,” said Parsons.
Throughout North Carolina, law enforcement officers will be out in full force for the “Booze It and Lose It” campaign, which started on Aug. 21 and runs through Sept. 7. The program includes checkpoints and stepped-up patrols in an effort to remove intoxicated drivers from the roads.
Most construction projects along interstate, N.C. and U.S. routes will be suspended from 4 p.m. Friday, Sept. 4, until 9 a.m., Tuesday, Sept. 8. For the latest on construction delays, go to the North Carolina Department of Transportation website, www.ncdot.org. Click on Travel & Maps and then on the Traveler Information Management System for up-to-date traffic information related to closed travel lanes, accidents or expected congestion due to special events.
The Labor Day travel period is defined as Thursday, Sept. 3, through Monday Sept. 7. Survey data is taken from AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, AAA/HIS Global Insight holiday travel forecast and AAA Carolinas data.
To estimate fuel costs travelers can go to www.fuelcostcalculator.com to input starting city, destination, and the make and model of their car