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Labor Day: The last hurrah of summer
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Labor Day travelers take advantage of lower gas prices. The average price for a gallon of unleaded in the local area is down 19 cents from last year.
For many, Labor Day marks the last holiday of the summer season. It is the last three-day weekend for most until Memorial Day next year.

Almost 35 million Americans are planning to take a final road trip taking them more than 50 miles away from home over the Labor Day holiday, according to AAA – The Auto Club Group. AAA defines the Labor Day travel period as Thursday, Aug. 28, through Monday, Sept. 1.

“Labor Day travel is forecast to finish the summer with a bang,” said Mark Jenkins, AAA spokesman. “Gas prices are down and consumer spending is up, which should help generate the most travelers for Labor Day holiday since the record setting 45 million in 2008.”

Gas prices

Current gas prices are the lowest since 2010. As of Aug. 26, the average national price of a gallon of regular unleaded was $3.43 – 11 cents less than the same date in 2013, when the price was $3.54, according to AAA’s Fuel Gauge Report. The national average is down 10 cents from July.

The average price in Florida was $3.34 – compared to 3.50 in 2013. The statewide average is down 12 cents from the same date in July.

In the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater metro area, the average gas price is 13 cents lower than the state average, coming in at $3.21 a gallon. On the same date in 2013, the average price in the local area was $3.40 a gallon – 19 cents more.

“Barring a major development, such as a Gulf Coast hurricane, prices are likely to remain relatively low leading up to the holiday weekend compared to recent years,” Jenkins said. “This will allow travelers to allocate more of their budget toward travel expenses.”

Hurricane Cristobal is currently churning in the Atlantic Ocean on track to pass off the east coast of the United States as a hurricane later this week. It should be way out to sea by Labor Day. It is not expected to interact with land.

Two other tropical systems currently being monitored by the National Hurricane Center are not likely to pose a threat for the Labor Day weekend.

Increase in consumer spending

AAA points to the increase in consumer spending as another factor prompting Americans to travel this year. Spending is expected to increase 3.8 percent year-over-year in the third quarter, AAA’s experts say. Disposable income is only expected to go up by 1.4 percent; therefore, more Americans are likely to use credit cards to pay for holiday travel.

“This year, Americans are more optimistic about their financial situation,” Jenkins said. “Consumer spending continues to outpace disposable income, indicating that Americans are comfortable using their credit cards to finance one last summer vacation this year.”

While travelers save on gas, they’ll likely pay about 6 to 9 percent more for lodging. Prices at AAA rated lodgings range from an average of $171 to $125. Cost of car rentals is about the same last year, averaging $51. Airfare is up about 2 percent, but 1 percent more are expected to fly this year.

About 1.5 million Floridians will travel by auto for Labor Day, according to AAA. Nearly, 132,000 are expected to fly and about 88,000 will use other transportation.

AAA’s travel projections are based on economic forecasting and research by IHS Global Insight.

Labor Day safety

As people prepare to celebrate, local law enforcement will be making plans to take to the roadways and waterways. They will be looking for people operating vehicles or boats while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. They will be looking for speeders, red-light runners and aggressive drivers. Everyone is urged to wear a seat belt. Don’t forget the life jacket when out on the water.
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