RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — A surge in travel is expected throughout the summer across the country despite economic uncertainty.
Monday, AAA released its Memorial Day travel forecast, projecting a large increase in travel compared to last year.
AAA predicts more than 42 million Americans will travel for the holiday weekend this year, that’s a 7 percent increase from last year and would be the third busiest since 2000.
“This doesn’t really surprise me. It’ll be interesting to see if the trend continues as we get into the summer,” said Michael Walden, an economics professor at N.C. State University.
AAA believes the trend will continue.
“This summer travel season could be one for the record books, especially at airports,” said the Senior Vice President of AAA Travel.
Walden believes part of the trend still has to do with COVID.
“I think people are still in a celebrating mood, they want to make up, sort of, for the things they missed during the last couple of Memorial holidays.”
But while many are planning to travel this summer, the uncertain economy is expected to have an impact on plans.
A survey released by NerdWallet in April found that 92 percent of those traveling this summer are taking steps to keep costs down, including choosing lodging and other amenities based on cost.
More than 80 percent of travelers will use a credit card for purchases, but more than a quarter, 26 percent, say they won’t pay off these expenses immediately.
“Credit card debt is going up by a fairly rapid pace, so I think some people, quite frankly, are maybe saying, you know this may be our last hurrah for the immediate future,” Walden said.
Some passengers at RDU say they’ve already had to make some adjustments ahead of the busy summer rush.
“Prices were getting real crazy, so we had to change our days around to make sure that we could afford it. We’re like flying on a weird time on Memorial Day because of it,” said Melanie Gideon, who flew in from Los Angeles.
Gideon says she’s also had many conversations about travel budgeting.
“Things have really changed this year. I think just the fallback from COVID, and all these years basically of things being shut down.”
Walden says declining gas prices are also a factor for the rise in travel this Memorial Day weekend. According to the latest numbers from GasBuddy, the average cost of gas in Raleigh fell over seven cents in the last week.
The N.C. State economics professor says he believes a recession or downturn is coming, but is hopeful it won’t last long and that many people will keep their jobs.
The travel industry, he explains, is typically one of the hardest hit by an economic downturn, as leisure travel is not a necessity, especially for those facing financial difficulties.