Economy, sequester blamed for drop in Memorial Day travel

The number of Americans who are expected to take trips to celebrate the Memorial Day holiday is down 0.9 percent from last year, according to predictions released by the AAA Auto Club.

The auto club predicted that 35.4 million Americans will travel to destinations that are more than 50 miles from their home, down from 35.1 million last year.

AAA President Robert Darbelnet said the economy and the automatic sequester budget cuts earlier this year were factors in fewer people taking trips far away from home in 2013.

“AAA is forecasting Memorial Day travel to be slightly lower this year due to an to an up and down economy, the impact of the end of the payroll tax holiday on working families and a 30-year low in the percentage of working age people in the workforce,” Darbelnet said in a statement. “Additionally, economic growth in the first quarter was strong, but the impact of the sequester is now beginning to be felt resulting in reduced economic growth expectations.  These and other variables are expected to result in few travelers this holiday. ”

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However, Darbelet said the biggest factor in the decline is an expected eight percent decline in airline travel.

“American travelers are experiencing fee fatigue and frustration with everything from higher fares to airport security,” he said. “As a result, many are choosing road travel in higher numbers due to the lower cost and convenience it offers.”

AAA predicted the number of drivers over the Memorial Day weekend would increase 0.25 percent, going from 31.1 million last year to 31.2 million in 2013.

The group said a poll of Americans who planned to drive for the Memorial Day trip found 62 percent of expected holiday motorists said the price of gas would not affect their travel plans.

The trade group for airlines, Airlines for America (A4A), said earlier this month that it expected overall summer travel on airlines to increase in 2013.

A4A said the increase would mostly come because of an increase in international travel, however.