According to AAA projections, the number of Americans traveling on vacation this Labor Day weekend will be heavily impacted by when Labor Day falls on the calendar. Approximately 39.1 million travelers are expected to take a trip of 50 miles or more away from home, a decrease of 13.3 percent from 2008 when Labor Day travel was the highest this decade. Labor Day fell on September 1 last year allowing for a long weekend trip before a new school year started in many regions of the country. This year, however, Labor Day is September 7, when the school year has already started for many children.

Last year, 45.1 million Americans traveled during the Labor Day holiday weekend period; the most this decade. Despite this year’s sizeable projected decline of 6 million travelers, AAA said it expects more Americans to travel this holiday than were projected to travel over this year’s 4th of July holiday weekend. AAA projected 37.1 million Americans would travel during the Independence Day holiday; typically the busiest automobile travel holiday of the year. This will also be the third strongest weekend for Labor Day travel this decade. The second busiest year was 2003 when 41.6 million Americans took a Labor Day weekend trip.

Last Labor Day weekend the nationwide average price of self-serve, regular gasoline dropped to US$3.68 per gallon after peaking at an all-time record of US$4.11 per gallon on July 17, AAA said. This combined with the earliness of the holiday and the emergence of end-of-summer discounts on travel, caused large numbers of travelers to make a last-minute decision to take a holiday trip. This year, AAA expects the nationwide average price of self-serve, regular gasoline to be approximately one dollar per gallon less expensive than it was one year ago; or about US$2.60 per gallon. Continued discounts and deals offered by travel providers will also make Labor Day vacations attractive, AAA said.

“AAA expects this Labor Day holiday weekend to be the third busiest of the decade, even though the number of travelers will be down from one year ago,” said AAA president & CEO, Robert L. Darbelnet. “However, with Labor day falling a week later this year when many children will have returned to school, the decline may have more to do with the calendar than with the economy. Our forecast shows Labor Day travel will be up over this summer’s 4th of July holiday, and that’s a positive sign.”