The U.S. Travel Association estimates Americans will spend about $725.4 billion on travel this year, up 3 percent from 2011, but less than half the increase between 2010 and 2011. Frechtling says about half of all trips are taken in the summer and the period accounts for about 40 percent of the year's spending.
Here's a look at how the modern summer vacation came to be and some facts about summer travel:
Summer has always been a popular time for Americans to skip town. While president, Thomas Jefferson was famous for spending most of the summer at Monticello. Working Americans didn't take summer breaks in earnest until the 19th century, however, when doctors started recommending relaxation as an important way to stay healthy. At about the same time, many schools split up their calendar from June to August, allowing families to travel together.
MOST POPULAR SUMMER DESTINATIONS
Travelers can't seem to get enough of Mickey Mouse. They also love Hawaii's beaches, Las Vegas' casinos, the Big Apple, the Golden Gate Bridge and the Grand Canyon. AAA's list of top destinations for 2011 was little changed from 2010 and 2009.
—No. 1: Orlando (Disney World)
—No. 2: Honolulu (Hawaii)
—No. 3: Anaheim (Disneyland)
—No. 4: Las Vegas
—No. 5: Kahului (Hawaii)
—No. 6: New York
—No. 7: Lihue (Hawaii)
—No. 8: San Francisco
—No. 9: Phoenix
—No. 10: Seattle
The typical traveler books vacation packages about 70 days in advance. Hotel reservations are booked later, usually within a month of the trip, according to AAA.
The car or truck is still Americans preferred way to travel, by a wide margin. Here's how we'll get to our vacation destination this Memorial Day weekend.
—Automobiles: 88 percent
—Airplane: 7 percent
—Miscellaneous (bus, train, cruise ship): 5 percent.
—The national average for gas is $3.727. At that price, a 400 mile trip in a 2012 Chevrolet Malibu would cost about $45.17 .
—The good news: gas has gotten cheaper. U.S. drivers have seen gas prices decline almost every day since the first week of April, according to auto club AAA, Wright Express and Oil Price Information Service. The decline since April 6 is nearly 21 cents.
—Prices will vary widely depending on where you go. A gallon of regular unleaded costs $3.56 in Orlando, $4.39 in Los Angeles, $4.55 in Hawaii, $3.90 in Las Vegas, $4.09 in New York City, $4.41 in San Francisco, $3.78 in Phoenix and $4.23 in Seattle.
— Gasoline was an average $3.795 during Memorial Day weekend last year.
Temperatures are expected to be higher than average throughout the much of the United States over the next few weeks. The National Weather Service says there's a 60 percent chance of hotter-than-normal weather in the Great Lakes region. The Upper Midwest, parts of the Gulf Coast and Florida are likely to see more rain than normal.
Here's the Memorial Day forecast, according to Accuweather:
—Los Angeles: mid-70s
—Las Vegas: mid/high 80s
—New York: mid-80s
—San Francisco: mid-60s
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