Travelers hit road, skies for Memorial Day

May 27, 2011 (CHICAGO)

An estimated 35 million people are expected to pack up their bags and get moving for the three-day weekend, and many are not letting the rise in fuel costs change how they will travel.

The travel rush began early Friday as drivers hit the road, hoping to get a jump on the holiday weekend.

"We like to stop along the way and get out and see things along the way," said motorist Sara Mullen.

In Chicago, gas is well above $4 a gallon, an increase of more than a dollar compared to Memorial Day weekend last year. When asked if he had any plans for the three-day weekend, motorist Damien West replied, " Nope. If I did it would be on a bicycle. That's about it."

At the Greyhound station in the Loop, many passengers told us high gas prices figured in their choice of travel.

"Read your book, get on the computer. It's more convenient sometimes than driving. The gas is expensive. It's too far to drive for me personally by myself," said Greyhound Passenger Kyara Johnson.

Overall, however, AAA predicts the number of holiday road trips this year to remain steady, which is a sign of consumer confidence. "The economy is turning around. People are back out there. They're spending their money, and they're spending it on leisure travel," said AAA Chicago spokeswoman Beth Mosher.

Despite an overall 14 percent increase in Memorial Day fares compared to last year, AAA says air travel is up 11 percent nationally.

"Because we decided we wanted to visit family despite of the cost, despite the economy, we decided we still wanted to go," said airline passenger Suzette Ocampo.

"My niece is graduating from high school tonight, my cousin's getting married on Saturday and I'm coming home on Monday," said airline passenger Frances Metcalf.

Many visitors are coming to Chicago. The travel website Orbitz ranks Chicago third -- after Las Vegas and New York City -- according to its Memorial Day hotel bookings.

"Take the kids out and relax, do some shopping, and see some sights," said Mark Ernst, who traveled with his family to Chicago from Detroit for Memorial Day weekend.

"We've been to the Sears Tower Skydeck. Next we're going to the aquarium. We're going to do the Field Museum, maybe even the John Hancock, but I'm really interested in doing some shopping," said Tessa Ernst, who also came to Chicago from Detroit.

More than 1.5 million people are expected to take a road trip this Memorial Day Weekend. Along with the usual auto safety reminders, AAA is making a special push to warn drivers not to text and drive.

Gas saving tips for Memorial Day motorists.

If you plan to hit the road, here are some tips that may save you money on gas.

  • Fill up on Friday before you head out. In some areas, gas prices increase most on Saturdays.
  • Go to warehouse clubs, like Sam's Club or Costco. Gas there could be about 3 percent lower than average.
  • Like real estate, think location, location, location! Avoid gas stations along the highway. Find one about a minute away from the highway exit, and you could save about $7 on a fill-up.

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