Metro-East News

Despite higher gas prices, more travelers will hit the road this Memorial Day weekend

More Americans will hit the road this year for Memorial Day travel compared to last year despite higher gas prices, according to estimates from AAA.

Upward of 39.3 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more away from home, 1 million more than last year and the highest number since 2005, according to AAA.

Bill Sutherland, AAA senior vice president, said the estimates reflect positive growth in travel.

“Higher confidence has led to more consumer spending,” Sutherland said in a news release. “Many Americans are choosing to allocate their extra money on travel this Memorial Day.”

Drivers will pay the highest gas prices since 2015, however. The national average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gas was $2.37 on Thursday, 7 cents more than last year’s average.

Gas prices in Illinois averaged 7 cents higher than the rest of the country on Thursday, while gas prices in St. Louis averaged 11 cents lower than the national average.

While most Americans will drive for Memorial Day — 88.1 percent — a larger percentage will fly, take a train or bus, or take a cruise vacation compared to 2016.

Air travel is expected to increase 5.5 percent over last year, with 2.9 million Americans taking to the skies this Memorial Day. Travel by other modes of transportation, including cruises, trains and buses, will increase 2.9 percent to 1.75 million travelers.

For those metro-east residents who don’t plan to travel, there will be plenty of nearby events to honor those who died while serving in the armed forces, including the Belleville parade and ceremony, the Veterans’ Monument ceremony in O’Fallon and a flag retirement ceremony at Valhalla Gardens, near the Old St. Louis Road entrance in Belleville.