Heavy travel expected on Memorial Day weekend

May 23 2013 - 12:50am

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Standard-Examiner file photo
Standard-Examiner file photo

Indications are that there will be plenty of Utah folks leaving home for the great outdoors or to visit grandma this weekend.

"We're expecting big crowds this weekend," said Deena Layola, spokeswoman for Utah State Parks. "People are maybe staying a little bit closer to home, so they are visiting state parks this weekend."

Layola said Wednesday that of the 32 state parks that offer camping, 29 were already booked.

The only spots available were primitive camping at some very northern areas, she said, including Starvation, Scofield and Bear Lake.

Layola said state parks are as busy as or busier than last year at this time.

But a survey by AAA Utah reveals slightly less enthusiasm by potential area road travelers.

AAA's travel survey projects that just more than 2.6 million Mountain West residents plan to travel 50 miles or more this Memorial Day weekend.This represents a slight decrease of 0.6 percent from last year, a news release from AAA Utah states.

"Many are still caving in to their pent-up desires to leave town as the official summer travel season begins," said AAA Utah spokeswoman Rolayne Fairclough in the news release. "Many will cut back on expenditures by traveling closer to home, and staying with family and friends."

The same survey reveals that air travel will decrease by 6.5 percent compared to 2012, with just more than 220,000 Mountain West residents intending to fly to their holiday getaways. Approximately 97,000 Mountain West residents are expected to travel by other modes of transportation, such as rail, bus and watercraft, according to the survey. This represents a decrease of 5.1 percent compared with 2012.

The AAA survey revealed that gas prices would not affect Memorial Day travel plans for an estimated 62 percent of travelers. The survey said 38 percent of travelers will economize in other areas, such as reduced spending on entertainment, staying at lower-priced hotels and staying with family and friends.

And while families will be on the roads this weekend, there's less chance than usual that they'll be held up by road construction.

Vic Saunders, public involvement manager at UDOT Region One, said most of the projects UDOT is pursuing have a requirement that workers remove traffic cones from the roadways during holidays.

"That includes Memorial Day," he said. "Most will be off. I can't think of any that will be on."

He said most subcontracting companies take at least a half-day off on that day.

"We try to keep our major roadways clear of all traffic management on that day," he said.

And according to travel agents, more people are traveling outside the state as well.

"Our business is very good," said Brent Jensen, vice president of Morris Murdock Travel. "We are 10 percent up from last year. We know a lot of people are going to be traveling."

Jensen said individual packages travel agents in his company are booking are more pricey than last year too.

"Europe, Hawaii and river cruising are very popular," he said. "The economy has come back. People's 401ks are doing better with the stock market going up."

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