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Labor Day travel expected to hit 7-year high. Here’s what you need to know.

Southbound traffic crawls along Interstate 77 near Remount Rd. A record number of travelers are expected to hit Carolinas' roadways for Labor Day weekend.
Southbound traffic crawls along Interstate 77 near Remount Rd. A record number of travelers are expected to hit Carolinas' roadways for Labor Day weekend. tsumlin@charlotteobserver.com

Nearly 1.5 million Carolinians are expected to drive 50 miles or more over the Labor Day weekend – the highest number in seven years, according to AAA Carolinas.

Travel is up across the states, AAA said, because of an improving economy and the lowest gas prices in 11 years. Motorists were paying $1.10 more per gallon a year ago in North Carolina and $1.15 more per gallon in South Carolina last Labor Day, according to AAA.

Few road delays are expected, because the N.C. Department of Transportation will postpone work on state and federal highways from 4 p.m. Friday to 9 a.m. Tuesday.

Partly sunny skies are forecast for the weekend, with the greatest chance of showers and thunderstorms – 40 percent – coming Saturday. The holiday should be partly sunny with a high near 85.

By plane

While most North Carolinians will drive to their destinations, about 81,800 will fly, about the same as last year, according to AAA. An estimated 36,300 South Carolinians will travel by air, also about the same as last Labor Day. Average airfares are 1 percent lower than last year in the Carolinas, with an average lowest round-trip fare of $216.

As a customer appreciation summer special, Charlotte Douglas International Airport is charging up to a maximum $14 a day to park in the hourly lot through Tuesday, compared with a maximum $20 normally. Parking is free for the first hour.

Most travelers will be driving

About 1 million North Carolinians and about 455,500 South Carolinians are expected to travel more than 50 miles from home, with the top driving destinations Myrtle Beach; Greensboro; Orlando, Fla.; Gatlinburg, Tenn.; and Asheville, according to AAA.

Filling up is cheaper

The average price for a gallon of gas in North Carolina is $2.22, while South Carolina’s average is $2.01, according to AAA. Asheville has North Carolina’s highest average price at $2.36, while the cheapest in the state is the Greensboro-Winston-Salem-High Point area at $2.16. Charleston has South Carolina’s highest average price at $2.01, and the cheapest can be found in Myrtle Beach at $1.94.

Be safe on the road

Last Labor Day weekend, troopers investigated 13 fatal collisions in North Carolina. South Carolina also had 13 fatalities. Troopers will be out in force this weekend on interstates, major four-lane highways and rural paved roads.

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