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38 million travelers will hit the road for Memorial Day weekend

AAA is predicting that this Memorial Day holiday travel period will be the second-busiest on record, with more people taking trips by land or air than any other since 2005.
AAA is predicting that this Memorial Day holiday travel period will be the second-busiest on record, with more people taking trips by land or air than any other since 2005. File photo

Hitting the road this holiday weekend? Thirty-eight million others are going, too.

AAA is predicting that this Memorial Day holiday travel period will be the second-busiest on record, with more people taking trips by land or air than any other since 2005.

The Memorial Day holiday travel period is Thursday, May 26, through Monday, May 30.

Jim Hanni, AAA vice president of public affairs, said most of the travelers — about 3.2 million — will hail from the West North Central Region, which includes Kansas.

About 89 percent of folks will hop in a car, truck or other roadworthy vehicle to travel. Nearly 7 percent will catch a plane.

The other 4.2 percent have another mode of transportation, like cruise ships, trains or buses.

AAA’s 38 million figure accounts for people traveling 50 or more miles from home. It’s also about 700,000 more Memorial Day travelers than last year.

So what’s fueling the wanderlust?

“No question, gas prices are driving it,” Hanni said, adding that a boost in disposable income from rising wages is helping, too.

Significant savings on everybody’s budget translates into more get-in-the-car-and-go.

Jim Hanni of AAA

“We’ve staying consistently below last year’s prices,” he said. “And last year we thought was a pretty darn good year.”

Nationally, gas prices are averaging about $2.30 a gallon, down about 44 cents from a year ago. Kansas prices are about 15 cents cheaper than that overall.

In Wichita on Thursday, the average cost for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline was about $2.18, Hanni said — about 35 cents cheaper than at this time last year.

But other towns are faring even better.

38 million Americans will travel over Memorial Day weekend

3.2 million from Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota and the Dakotas

700,000 more travelers expected this year than in 2015

The Marion County town of Tampa — population 112 — boasted the cheapest gas prices in the state, at $1.94 a gallon, Hanni said. Patrons in the southeast Kansas town of Parsons were paying $1.95 at the pump, while stations in Galena were selling gas for $1.99.

“Significant savings on everybody’s budget translates into more get-in-the-car-and-go,” Hanni said.

“It’s a convenient, low-cost way to get out and travel.”

The Memorial Day travel period is Thursday through Monday. Friday and Monday should be the busiest days, Hanni said.

89%of travelers will go by car

6.8%will travel by air

4.2%have other transportation, like cruise ships, trains or buses

Airfare, other travel costs

In addition to saving money at the pump, travelers are seeing savings at airline ticket and rental car counters.

Average national costs for ... A gallon of gas: $2.30 A rental car: $62 per day A night’s hotel stay: $151 to $183 A round-trip flight: $165

Airfares are down about 26 percent overall compared with 2015, Hanni said. The average round-trip ticket costs about $165.

About 2.6 million Americans will fly over Memorial Day, a 1.6 percent increase over 2015, according to a AAA news release.

Daily rental car prices will be about $62 on average, down 3 percent from last year.

Hotel prices, meanwhile, are expected to be a little higher, Hanni said.

“With more demand the rates are up just a bit,” he said.

With more demand the rates are up just a bit.

Jim Hanni of AAA on the cost of hotels

At Wichita’s Eisenhower National Airport, holiday travel is expected to go smoothly.

“The flights have been running pretty full, so I expect over the holiday weekend that those will be pretty good,” said Valerie Wise, the airport’s air service and business development manager.

Wait times and lines haven’t been as long as those in larger airports, Wise said — and should stay that way as long as passengers properly pack their bags so there are no holdups at security checkpoints.

AAA expects to rescue more than 1,000 motorists in Kansas during the Memorial Day holiday travel period. The primary problems will be dead batteries, lockouts and flat tires. Suggestions to avoid the trouble include keeping a spare key in your wallet and getting tires and batteries checked out before departing on that trip.

She suggested passengers arrive about 90 minutes before their scheduled departure time, even though it probably won’t take quite that long to get through check-in and security.

She also urged passengers to check suggested arrival times at the airports handling their return flights so they don’t get delayed or stranded at the end of their vacation.

“During the heavy travel season it’s better to be early than to be late,” she said.

During the heavy travel season it’s better to be early than to be late.

Valerie Wise, spokeswoman for Eisenhower National Airport

Amy Renee Leiker: 316-268-6644, @amyreneeleiker

Gas price comparison

Gas prices in Wichita were averaging about $2.18 a gallon for regular unleaded fuel on Thursday. The national average was around $2.30.

Here’s a look at how local prices have changed:

Regular

Mid

Premium

Diesel

Current

$2.176

$2.322

$2.474

$2.214

Week ago

$2.064

$2.216

$2.380

$2.149

Month ago

$2.019

$2.172

$2.335

$2.010

Year ago

$2.531

$2.680

$2.825

$2.777

Source: AAA

Flight tips

Wichita Eisenhower National Airport spokeswoman Valerie Wise offered these travel tips for people departing over the Memorial Day holiday weekend. More tips can be found at www.flywichita.com/tips-faqs/.

▪ Arrive early. Eisenhower National Airport suggests passengers arrive 90 minutes before their scheduled departure. Larger airports may suggest earlier arrivals, so be sure to check that on your return flight.

▪ Pack properly and be diligent about leaving prohibited items out of your carry-on bags to keep the security lines moving. For a refresher on the security screening process and what you can and can’t have on the plane, go to www.tsa.gov.

▪ Make sure your bags don’t exceed your airline’s weight limit. It’s 50 pounds for most airlines but only 40 pounds on Allegiant Air flights.

▪ Consider checking in online up to 24 hours before your departure time. You can print your boarding pass in advance or have it available on your mobile device.

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