Despite higher gas prices and the prospect of vehicle breakdowns, more Carolinas residents will travel this Memorial Day weekend than any year since 2005, according to the AAA.
Travel experts said they expect about 1.43 million people from the two states to travel more than 50 miles from home on this traditional opening of the summer season. Nearly 90 percent of them will drive.
First the good news: The weather is expected to be nice, and highway construction will be suspended in both Carolinas.
The problem is that travelers will spend about 20 cents a gallon more for gasoline than last Memorial Day. If that’s not enough, the AAA expects a surge in vehicle breakdowns due to problems created during our rather harsh winter.
AAA Carolinas said it expects 13,000 motorists to break down in the two states this weekend. The biggest culprit, AAA predicted, will be stressed-out batteries.
“Holiday trips are about getting away, and it is not a time to become stressed behind the wheel,” said David Parsons, president and CEO of AAA Carolinas. “Relax by making sure your car is ready for the trip.”
More than 110,000 Carolinas residents are expected to fly this weekend. That’s up more than 2 percent from last year.
Those flying out of Charlotte Douglas International Airport can expect parking problems. In fact, that will be a common theme throughout the summer, with the airport short about 4,000 parking spaces due to construction of the new parking garage, set to open in November.
The average price of gas in the Carolinas is $3.62 in North Carolina and $3.46 in South Carolina.
AAA said the most expensive gas in each state is in Boone ($3.71) for North Carolina and Charleston ($3.48) for South Carolina. The cheapest is in High Point ($3.56) for N.C. and Spartanburg ($3.41) in S.C.
Across the Southeast, prices range from $3.45 in Virginia and Tennessee to $3.60 in Georgia and Florida, AAA said.
The N.C. Highway Patrol and other agencies are launching their “On the Road, On the Water, Don’t Drink and Drive” summer campaign this weekend. Troopers will be looking for motorists who might have been drinking. The Highway Patrol will have extra personnel working this weekend.
The S.C. Highway Patrol is running its Buckle Up South Carolina campaign and said it will have stepped-up patrols this weekend, especially on the interstate highways and along the coast, where the heaviest traffic is expected.
Very nice conditions are forecast this weekend. There will be a 20 to 30 percent chance of thunderstorms Friday afternoon, but Saturday through Monday are expected to be dry. High temperatures will range from the mid 70s in the mountains to the mid 80s in the Piedmont and near the coast.
The most congested travel times, the AAA said, is expected to be Friday afternoon and evening and again Monday evening. Heavy traffic flow will start early Friday afternoon, experts said. That’s a few hours earlier than usual.
The AAA said the most popular driving destinations for Carolinas residents are Myrtle Beach, Charlotte (for the Coca-Cola 600), Gatlinburg, Tenn., and Williamsburg, Va.