High gas prices, economy hamper holiday travel plans

September 1, 2011 4:27:29 PM PDT
This Labor Day, many will be sitting home enjoying the day off. But millions of Americans will be forced to stay home because they are without a job and have no extra money to spend.

According to the American Automobile Association in Illinois, travel expectations for Chicago and Illinois are down. It is likely a sign of just how sensitive some people are to the price of gas ahead of the unofficial last weekend of summer.

When gas is over $4 a gallon, a certain psychological trigger fires. For the AAA, it is all so predictable.

"One point 7 million people will be traveling in Illinois this weekend. That's a decrease from where we were this time last year. The economy is still hitting people pretty hard, but most of all we're seeing the gas prices really have an effect on people," said Beth Mosher of AAA.

Mosher says even with the warm weather more Chicagoans are choosing to spend their Labor Day around familiar haunts.

Some women from Libertyville, who recently finished with summer jobs in South America and Philadelphia, are happy to spend time in Chicago.

"I was working in South America all summer where it is winter. It is nice here to soak up the sun and just to see, you know, something different than farmlands," said Laurieann.

"It is your last chance to enjoy the warm weather down here," her friend said.

In fact, after New York and Las Vegas, Chicago is the nation's number three destination for Labor Day travel.

At the headquarters of Orbitz, the online travel website, employees can see all the planes in the air bound for Chicago. Orbitz says that's for good reason.

"We're seeing that people are traveling. People took their summer vacations, but they do need to be budget conscious," said Marita Hudson, Orbitz.com.

In the Orbitz control room, where they monitor the company's websites around the world, employees can track how much last minute travel spending is focused on Chicago.

"We found a deal at the Sheraton for $149 over the weekend. If you book it on orbitz.com, the Drake has a room for $187 over the weekend and the Palmer House Hilton is $159, so fantastic deals for people who are getting out of town," said Hudson.

At "The Bean," arguably the city's premiere tourist attraction, it's easy to find Chicagoans. Maybe they don't have a lot to get away, but they're glad they're here this weekend.

"I don't think everybody can leave, but for those who can, it is worth it to enjoy and come and spend money," said Mohammed Rafiq.

For those who are traveling, authorities are going to be out in full force ensuring that drunk driving laws are respected. Illinois State Police also tell ABC7 that they will be enforcing seatbelt laws as well.

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