Fewer Arizonans are expected to leave town for Labor Day weekend because the holiday is later than usual this year, according to AAA Arizona.
According to AAA's travel forecast, 714,000 Arizonans are expected to travel for the upcoming holiday, which is Sept. 5-7. That means roughly 57,000 fewer travelers, or a 7.4 percent decline, compared with Labor Day 2008. Nationwide, 39.1 million Americans will travel over the holiday weekend, down 6 million, or 13.3 percent, from last year's holiday, the automobile club reported.
AAA said it's the eighth consecutive holiday in which fewer people in Arizona will travel versus the year before.
"Typically we're used to seeing Labor Day either at the very end of August or right at the beginning of September, and this time it's a week later," said Linda Gorman, AAA Arizona's public affairs director. "For most people, their kids are going back to school if not already back in school, they're already almost out of that summer mode and looking ahead to the fall months, and aren't necessarily thinking about summer travel anymore."
In addition, concerns over economic uncertainty, with high unemployment and the still-troubled housing market, will keep many people home, she said.
A flurry of end-of-summer deals will help Labor Day travelers spend less money than they did last year, according to AAA's Leisure Travel Index. Comparing Labor Day 2009 to Labor Day 2008, hotel rates are down 11 to 13 percent, airfares are down 17 percent, and Arizona gas prices are down about 27 percent. Car rental rates are up 7 percent, however.
"(Last year) the highest gas price was July 3 when prices peaked at $4.10," Gorman said. "But between July 3 and Labor Day 2008, gas prices fell by about 50 cents, so that could have spurred some last-minute travel last year. But this year, I don't think gas prices are really contributing too much to summer travel. They're not a big impetus as to why people would get out and travel."
Those planning to hit the road this holiday need to make sure their tires, battery, belts and hoses are all in good working order, she said.
"Nothing can ruin a vacation like being stranded on the side of the road," she said.
Also, leave your travel itinerary with someone so if you don't make your destination, someone knows where to look for you, Gorman said. Travelers with iPhones can download the AAAiPhone App, a free, GPS-based application that displays retail locations of AAA's discount program and allows you to alert roadside assistance if you break down.