An estimated 38 million Americans will go somewhere this weekend. Most — 84 percent — will pile into cars, vans and SUVs to get there, AAA Arizona reports.
That’s nearly 2 percent more than hit the roads last Memorial Day. Airlines needn’t worry. The auto club, which annually queries travelers about their Memorial Day travel plans, estimates that 4.4 million people will fly to their first-holiday-of-summer destination, 1 percent more than a year ago.
Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport is adding extra operations staff and volunteers to handle anticipated daily crowds of 100,000 to 125,000 passengers, said Deborah Ostreicher, deputy aviation director. The two busiest travel days will be Friday and Monday, she said.
“It’s one of our busier summer holidays, because school is already out in Arizona, so a lot of people take advantage of the extra day (off work) to start summer vacations,” she said. Ostreicher suggests that air travelers arrive at the airport two hours early and bring passports if Mexico or any other international destination is on their itinerary.
The airport will open overflow parking lots if necessary, she said.
Friday and Monday will be busiest days on the road, too, said Linda Gorman, AAA Arizona spokeswoman.
Despite record gas prices nationally, record numbers of motorists will travel at least 50 miles from home for the holi- day weekend, she said.
“People consider vacations nonnegotiable,” Gorman said. “They are going on vacations regardless, but many plan to travel smarter.”
To compensate for the extra outlay for fuel, some Memorial Day motorists will choose a destination a little closer to home, shave a day off the trip, stay in cheaper hotels, or dine in cheaper eateries, she said.
The good news for Valley vacationers is that local gas prices have slowed their meteoric rise, she said, while prices in the Midwest have started to soar, pushing the national average into record territory.
California, which has been leading the country in most expensive petrol for months, apparently has leveled off at a still unnerving $3.45 a gallon, but Illinois has surpassed that with an average $3.48 for regular unleaded, Gorman said.
Arizona’s average per-gallon tab Tuesday was $3.10, with Scottsdale at $3.15 and popular holiday weekend destination Flagstaff at $3.22 raising the curve.
Gorman suggests that motoring vacationers check AAA’s Fuel Price Finder at www.aaa.com to find the cheapest gas along their planned route.