AAA predicts slight gas price increase for Memorial Day travel Thanks to lower gasoline prices and an abundance of travel bargains, there will be a modest increase of .4 percent more South Dakotans expected to travel over the upcoming Memorial Day holiday weekend compared to Memorial Day 2008, according to AAA South Dakota. The auto club says this year, 93,420 South Dakotans will travel 50 or more miles from home over the holiday, 83 percent of them by motor vehicle. "South Dakota's highways will be slightly busier than last year over the long Memorial Day weekend with over two percent more traffic expected this year compared to last year," said Mark Madeja, spokesman for AAA South Dakota. "The number of South Dakotans who will be flying to their destination this year is due to increase 14.8 percent, to 16,024 people." AAA predicts a 1.5 percent increase in Memorial Day travel nationwide this year with approximately 32.4 million travelers taking to the road, the air or the rails. Last year, 31.9 million Americans traveled during the same period; a dramatic decline from the 35.3 million travelers who vacationed in 2007. Eighty-three percent of all traveling Americans will get there by car or pickup, seven percent will fly and the rest will take a train, bus or boat. In contrast to the nearly 2.6 percent increase in trips by personal automobile nationwide, trips by air will decline by 1 percent, AAA said. Gasoline pump prices this year are averaging about $1.50 less than one year ago, AAA says. According to the AAA Fuel Gauge Report (www.fuelgaugereport.com), today's national average for self-serve regular is $2.248. South Dakota's average is trailing lower at $2.201. "Last year, soaring gas prices and a deteriorating economy resulted in far fewer trips being taken than had been forecasted," said Madeja. "This year, sharply lower gasoline prices and plentiful travel bargains have us feeling better about taking a road trip, which in turn will help tourism-based economic activity throughout the nation. Approximately one in seven Americans is employed directly or indirectly by the hospitality and travel industry." The average distance traveled by Americans this Memorial Day holiday weekend is forecast to be approximately 620 miles. However, in South Dakota and the west north central part of the U.S., the figure is projected to be 506 miles. According to AAA's Leisure Travel Index, airfares over the Memorial Day holiday weekend are expected to decrease four percent from last year as air passengers will pay an average $176. Car rental rates will drop lower with consumers paying an average of $43 per day compared to $45 a year ago, a decrease of three percent. Hotel rates for AAA Three Diamond-rated lodgings are expected to be 12 percent less than last year with travelers spending an average of $142 per night. Those planning to stay at AAA Two Diamond-rated hotels will pay an average of $104 per night, 7 percent less than a year ago. AAA's projections are based on research conducted by IHS Global Insight. The Boston-based economic research and consulting firm teamed with AAA earlier this year as part of an agreement to jointly analyze travel trends during the major holidays. AAA has been issuing holiday travel forecasts for more than two decades. The complete AAA / IHS Global Insight 2009 Memorial Day holiday travel report can be found at AAA.com/news. As North America's largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 51 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. AAA South Dakota can be visited on the Internet at AAA.com.