West's Labor Day travel likely to decrease in '12

Nearly one in 10 Westerners will hit the road or take flight for a final summer fling during Labor Day weekend, according to AAA projections.

AAA expects Pacific region travel by residents from Oregon Alaska, California, Hawaii and Washington state to decrease 2.5 percent, with just under 5 million people taking trips.

"Some of the economic momentum seen earlier in the year has begun to slow, and many Americans are reacting to economic uncertainty and higher airfares," AAA Oregon Public Affairs Director Marie Dodds said in a release. "Because of that, we expect a decrease in holiday travelers."

Nationally, AAA anticipates a 2.4 percent decline from 2010, with approximately 31.5 million travelers venturing at least 50 miles from home.

When the holiday falls earlier in September, more travel tends to take place, AAA said. The three-highest volume holiday travel years since 2000 have come in 2002, 2003 and 2008, when Labor Day fell on the first or second day of the month. This year, Labor Day is Sept. 5, which is one day earlier in the month than last year.

The auto club said 87 percent of holiday travelers — 27.4 million — plan to take to the nation's roadways, up slightly from the 27.2 million a year ago. In the Pacific region, 80 percent of the travel will be by auto with Yellowstone National Park, the California Redwoods and Southern Oregon Coast being the top destinations, along with Central Oregon and Crater Lake.

AAA reported fuel prices — in the $3.58 per gallon range — are about 25 percent higher than a year ago.

Air travel will account for 13 percent of the Pacific region's travel, with 1.5 percent fewer people traveling from 2010. According to AAA's Leisure Travel Index, Labor Day airfares are expected to be 13 percent higher than last year, with an average lowest round-trip rate of $202 for the top 40 U.S. air routes. Increasing airfares and fees are factors contributing to the decline in air travel, the first expected decline for a major travel holiday in 2011.

The average distance traveled by Americans during the Labor Day holiday weekend is expected to be 608 miles, only slightly less than last year's average travel distance of 635 miles.

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