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Alabamians hit the roads and airports for Memorial Day

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Highways and airports in Alabama are likely to be jammed in the coming days as Americans head out on and home from Memorial Day weekend getaways. AAA predicts this will be the busiest start-of-summer weekend in nearly twenty years. The Transportation Security Administration says up to 3 million people may pass through airport checkpoints on Friday alone. And that's just a sample of what's to come.

If you’re hitting the road for the Memorial Day weekend, pack your patience. The Alabama Triple-A is predicting over thirty-eight million people will travel by car over the holiday. That’s a whopping four percent increase over last year. The auto club says one percent is what typically happens from year to year. Triple-A spokesman Clay Ingram says some travelers appears to be still getting over the COVID-19 pandemic which limited vacation options.

“I think there's just, you know, still a little pent-up demand from the pandemic,” said Ingram. “And, you know, our population increases every year as well. And people are just more comfortable, I think now than in a long time. As far as getting out and about and going somewhere.”

U.S. airlines expect to carry a record number of passengers this summer. Their trade group estimates that 271 million travelers will fly between June 1 and August 31, breaking the record of 255 million set – you guessed it – last summer. The annual expression of wanderlust is happening at a time when Americans tell pollsters they are worried about the economy and the direction of the country. If you’re driving to your Memorial Day destination, Alabama Triple-A spokesman Clay Ingram has a tip to save money.

“We did a study a few years ago that shows that if you go from being a very aggressive driver to a very conservative driver, you can save as much as 33% of your fuel costs, because that aggressive driving uses a lot more fuel than people realize.

So what about nervousness over the economy? It's important to note that people often say their own finances are better than average. In an AP survey from February, 54% said their personal situation was good — but only 30% felt the same about the nation's economy. That could explain why they can afford to splurge on travel. Monday is expected to be the big return travel day for the Memorial Day weekend, but the triple-A says drivers could still be trickling back on Tuesday.

 

Pat Duggins is news director for Alabama Public Radio.
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