Labor Day is upon us, which means millions of Americans are planning trips and special events to celebrate the long weekend with friends and family. One of the most popular things to do over this weekend is to take a driving trip. According to recent reports, this year is gearing up to be one of the most popular driving weekends of the past few years.
Busy behind the wheel
This year, an estimated 34.7 million people will take a journey of 50 miles or more from home over Labor Day weekend, up 1.3 percent from last year, according to AAA. This is the highest volume since 2008, meaning more Americans are seeing better economic conditions and feeling confident about taking a trip. Of these travelers, 86 percent, or 29.7 million, are planning on taking a road trip as their mode of transportation. By comparison, only 8 percent of travelers are planning on taking an airplane to reach their destination, an increase of 1 percent from 2013.
For most American families, Labor Day weekend represents the last chance for a summer vacation before school is back in session.
Why more Americans are out
This year may be the first year following the recession where Americans are finally feeling more confident about the economy and their personal finances to spend more on road trips and family trips. Many of the conditions from the recession that have held Americans back from spending and taking vacations, such as unemployment levels, have largely dissipated. According to AAA, consumer spending has outpaced wage growth, indicating that more families are willing to finance their vacation via credit.
"As the economy makes modest gains, more Americans are joining the labor force this year," said Marshall Doney, AAA chief operating officer. "With Labor Day symbolizing the American workers' contributions to the strength and prosperity of our country, it's only fitting that millions are choosing to celebrate this positive direction with an all-American road trip."
Another factor that has encouraged more Americans to get back on the road is lower gas prices. As more drivers can save a bit of dough this year for a road trip, there's potential for Labor Day weekend to be busy on U.S. highways.
"We're going into the Labor Day [weekend] with the lowest gasoline prices for most motorists since 2010 for the holiday," Michael Green, a AAA spokesperson in Washington, told Bloomberg Businessweek. "This really helps make travel more affordable and leave travelers with more money to spend on other things while on their trips."
According to AAA, the current price of regular gasoline is $3.44, down from $3.59 during Labor Day in 2013. Prices are likely to remain low leading up to the long weekend, making travel more affordable for most.
With so many drivers on the road this year, it is essential that all drivers ensure their auto insurance policies are up to date and that they have adequate coverage. It is also a good idea to plan for travel delays due to heavy traffic.