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Rise in gas prices hampers holiday travel

May 22, 2009 12:01:56 PM PDT
Millions of Americans are on the move this Memorial Day weekend, but apparently not as many as in past years. The Auto Club AAA estimates 32.4 million people, or about one in 10 Americans, will travel over the long holiday weekend.

In Southern California, 2.5 million people are expected to travel, which is a drop of 2.3 percent from last year.

Despite rising gas prices, more than 90 percent of Southern Californians will get to their destination by car.

"It doesn't matter, whatever. I mean, even if it goes to $5, I'll still do it. It's all about spending time with the family," said driver Franco Polo.

John Coles is driving an RV to his destination and says he's feeling pain at the pump.

"It's been expensive, but this rig doesn't get a whole lot. We're not exactly green. It's about 10 miles per gallon" Cole said.

Air travel is down about 10 percent at LAX, where an estimated 730,000 people are expected to pass through this weekend. Analysts say the recession is taking its toll on travel.

"The economic downturn is affecting California more acutely than many other parts of the country, and the state's double-digit unemployment has without a doubt pushed down the number of holiday travelers," said Auto Club spokesperson Jeffrey Spring.

The decline in travel might have been bigger, but many families are taking advantage of bargains. Many of the major hotel chains are offering special promotions. Travel experts say booking at the last minute can sometimes mean big discounts.

The top five Memorial Day destinations for Southern Californians are expected to be Las Vegas, San Diego, San Francisco, Arizona and the Central Coast.

The Associated Press and City News Service contributed to this report.

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