1 of 4 | Of the total expected number of travelers this Memorial Day weekend, AAA expects that most people -- about 35 million -- will travel by car. File Photo by Mike Nelson/EPA
May 18 (UPI) -- Even with gas prices at record levels nationwide, nearly 40 million people are expected to travel long distances over the coming Memorial Day weekend -- which traditionally signals the start of the busier summer driving season.
AAA said in its annual forecast on Wednesday that it expects 39.2 million people will travel 50 miles or more in the United States over the holiday weekend from May 27-30. That would be an 8.3% increase over the same weekend in 2021.
Of the total figure, AAA expects that most people -- about 35 million -- will travel by car. About 3 million will travel by plane and 1.3 million by bus or some other mode of transportation, the organization said.
Experts say that part of the reason for the expected increase is a desire for vacations after two years of COVID-19. This Memorial Day weekend is the first since the pandemic began during which most coronavirus restrictions will have been lifted.
"Memorial Day is always a good predictor of what's to come for summer travel," AAA Travel Senior Vice President Paula Twidale said in a statement.
"Based on our projections, summer travel isn't just heating up, it will be on fire. People are overdue for a vacation and they are looking to catch up on some much-needed R&R in the coming months."
Analysts say that gas prices will keep going up in the U.S. for as long as drivers don't rein in their driving. File Photo by Terry Schmitt/UPI
AAA also noted that the average lowest airfare this Memorial Day weekend is a little bit more expensive than last year.
Gas prices, of course, are far more expensive.
According to AAA, the national average on Wednesday was $4.57 -- an increase of about 4 cents per gallon since Tuesday. The new mark is about 17 cents higher than it was a week ago, and almost 50 cents higher than it was a month ago. A year ago, the national average was $3.04 per gallon.
AAA's national average is presently an all-time high.
California has the nation's most expensive gas, with an average of $6.05 -- and Kansas has the least expensive, at $4.03.
Prices continue to rise for various reasons -- mainly demand due to the warmer weather and disruptions to the global energy market brought on by the war in Ukraine.
"These pressures are not likely to abate in the very near future," Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said Wednesday according to The Washington Post.
"We're doing what we can to avoid further increases in energy prices."
In Germany for a G7 finance meeting Wednesday, Yellen also said that she expects there will be global increases in oil production to help prices -- eventually -- and that a U.S. recession is unlikely, despite the pressures of the current economic climate.
Analysts say that gas prices will continue to rise in the United States for as long as drivers keep paying for expensive gas and don't rein in their travel.
"So far there is little sign of a meaningful demand retrenchment," Bob McNally, president of Rapidan Energy Group, said according to the Post.