More than a million North Carolinians will hit the road this Memorial Day weekend, taking advantage of relatively low gas prices to kick off the summer travel season, according to AAA Carolinas.
Nearly 89,000 more will take to the skies, and another 35,000 will set out on trains, buses and cruise ships. All told, it’s expected to be the busiest Memorial Day travel weekend since 2005, when gas prices were just under $2 a gallon.
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North Carolina’s travel industry saw its highest receipts ever last year, with visitors spending hitting $22.9 billion, a 4.3 percent increase from 2015, according to Anthony M. Copeland, secretary of the N.C. Department of Commerce.
Spending is expected to top that this year.
Some of that will come through increased costs. According to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, average airfares for the top 40 domestic flight routes will be 9 percent higher this Memorial Day compared to last year, with an average round-trip ticket coming in at $181. The agency’s surveys show that three-diamond-rated hotels will average $215 per night this Memorial Day, an 18 percent increase over last year. Rental cars will cost about 7 percent more this year than in 2016, AAA says.
While others in the country will pay slightly higher gas prices this year, those who fill the tank in North Carolina will pay about a penny less per gallon than they did at the start of summer 2016.
For those living in North and South Carolina, AAA says the most popular driving destinations are Myrtle Beach, Charlotte, Raleigh, Wilmington and Greenville, S.C.
“Carolinians are eagerly awaiting the start of summer and are ready to travel,” said Dave Parsons, president and CEO of the Charlotte-based AAA Carolinas. “We urge drivers to stay safe on the roadways this weekend and to always remember to put the phone away and disconnect and drive.”
For information on travels delays along N.C. highways, go to www.NCDOT.gov.