Scrape the bugs off your windshield and check your radiator coolant because the next few months are stacking up to be one of the top summers for road trips in years.
With consumer confidence up, fuel prices down and frustration over airline fees growing, Americans are expected to hit the road in big numbers over the next few months, rolling to such hot spots as Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon.
Travel experts and surveys conducted in the last few weeks point to a season of busy freeways and crowded roadside attractions.
Three in four summer travelers said they would be taking a trip by car, up from 70 percent who said they planned to drive last summer, according to a survey of more than 1,200 Americans taken by the travel website TripAdvisor.
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A survey by the travel website Expedia found that 14 percent of travelers said they were more likely to take a summer road trip this year than last year because of an improving economy.
“I think we are going to see a little more of those longer trips,” said Jim Rogers, chief executive of Kampgrounds of America, a Montana-based franchise with more than 400 campgrounds throughout North America. “It’s not going to be just the weekend trips.”
Summer reservations at KOA campgrounds across the country are up 14 percent compared with the same period last year, and Rogers attributes the rise to declining fuel prices and rising confidence in the economy.
“It’s not going to be a tsunami or a tidal wave, but it will be a definite wave,” he said of the road trip trend.
For Mike Shaub, an aircraft maintenance manager at California’s Edwards Air Force Base, road trips are a way to connect with his 12-year-old daughter, Liberty. The two drive each summer to Oregon for a fishing and camping trip.
“One of my favorite reasons to drive is the quote I often hear from my daughter: ‘Dad? Can we stop there? That looks interesting,’” he said. “Things like that make me favor driving over a flight any day.”
High fuel prices are the biggest deterrent to travelers considering a road trip, according to the Expedia survey. So, declining gasoline prices may represent a green light for travelers hoping to hit the road this summer.
Of those who plan to travel this summer, 53 percent said they would spend about the same amount as last year and 25 percent said they would spend more, according to a survey by TripAdvisor.
Airlines for America, the trade group for the nation’s airlines, predicted 209 million Americans will fly this summer, up 1 percent from last summer. The trade group said most of the growth would come from travel on international flights.
For those who fly, the cabins will be more crowded and the tickets more expensive this summer.
The airline trade group predicts nearly 87 percent of airline seats will be filled this summer. About 79 percent were filled in the first two months of the year, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.
The average price of a domestic airline ticket is expected to be up 4 percent compared with last summer, according to a study by the travel website Hotwire.