Summer Travel Season Begins

May 26, 2016

Credit Photo via Flickr//tobo / https://flic.kr/p/6kEiiK

AAA projects more than 38 million Americans will be on the road this Memorial Day weekend – the unofficial start of the summer travel season.

The Memorial Day period is defined as Thursday, May 26 to the actual holiday on Monday the 30th.

“We’re expecting an additional 700,000 Memorial Day travelers,” said Mark Jenkins at AAA-South in Tampa. “Largely because growth in the labor market [and] people making more money. But the biggest reason is low gas prices.”

Gas prices in the Pensacola area average $2.32 per gallon. That’s 33 cents lower than a year ago, but prices have been on the upswing since February, up roughly 50 cents per gallon.

Of the 38 million Americans hitting the road this weekend, 34 million will jump in their cars. That bodes well for so-called “drive-to” destinations, such as Pensacola Beach.

“You’re going to see a lot of people from Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi and even Louisiana,” said Chamber President Nicole Stacy.  Even for just a day trip, I think we’re going to see a lot of people just driving over, whether it be from Friday to Monday or Sunday to Monday.”

And Stacy has some thoughts about traffic -- one of the lesser-liked traditions during Memorial Day and the other summer holidays as well. She says rule one is -- the earlier you head out, the better.

“Get in the car in the morning and come over to the beach,” said Stacy. “Our trolley service kicks off Memorial Day weekend, so you can park just about anywhere on the island, get on a trolley for free, and go wherever you need to go.”

Just over two and a half million Americans will fly to their Memorial Day getaways, up 1.6% from a year ago. And AAA expects to rescue more than 350,000 motorists from emergencies, including dead batteries, flat tires and lockouts. AAA’s Mark Jenkins says the main focus when traveling is safety.

“Minimize distractions while you’re behind the wheel,” said Jenkins. “Don’t be drinking or eating for fumbling around with your cellphone. If you do happen to drink any alcohol, don’t get behind the wheel. Identify a friend or a designated driver; call a cab, or call AAA Tow2Go.”

That Tow2Go number is (855) 286-9246, and will get you and your vehicle a safe ride home.