More Americans hit the road to kick off summer

Tue May 12, 2009 5:20pm EDT
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By Rebekah Kebede

NEW YORK (Reuters) - With the weather warming and gasoline costs dropping, Ken Hyman is looking forward to hitting the open road in his Mustang convertible as Americans head back to the highways in higher numbers this summer.

"You feel free," said Hyman, 67, who likes to wax nostalgic about the feeling of wind in his hair as he drives down the highway.

And he's not the only U.S. driver looking forward to holiday road travel this year.

AAA travel and auto group on Tuesday forecast a 1.5 percent rise in travel compared with 2008 for the U.S. Memorial Day weekend, the beginning of the traditional summer driving season.

The trend will likely continue during the major summer travel holidays of the Fourth of July and Labor Day as lower fuel prices reignite the American love affair with the open road, according to AAA.

"The good news is sharply lower gasoline prices and plentiful travel bargains have Americans feeling better about taking a road trip this summer," AAA President and Chief Executive Officer Robert Darbelnet said.

Lower gasoline prices, travel bargains and pent-up consumer demand will trump concerns about the recession during major holidays this summer, he said.

Approximately 32.4 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home during the three-day weekend that ends on Monday, May 25, up from 31.9 million last year.   Continued...