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AAA says 4.2 million in region will travel on Memorial Day weekend

| Thursday, May 22, 2014, 11:12 p.m.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Colleen Kelly, 60 of Hampton helps her grandson, Preston Chochran, 6 of Hampton pump gas at a 7-11 in Hampton, Thursday.

What happens in Vegas will not include diapers, bibs or pacifiers this weekend — and Pasha Flavius-Cook is excited about it.

The married East Hills mother of four ranging in age from 20 months to 13 years old, will fly to Las Vegas for what has become a Memorial Day weekend tradition with her girlfriends, she said.

“I don't gamble. I don't do anything like that. I just need to get away,” said Flavius-Cook, 32. She is in the minority among Memorial Day weekend travelers, who are more likely to drive.

The cost of higher home heating bills and home repairs during the harsh 2013-14 winter cut into travel budgets this year, so weekend travel in the Mid-Atlantic region — New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania — will increase only slightly, said Teresa Thomas, AAA East Central spokeswoman.

More than 4.2 million people in the region will travel at least 50 miles using various modes of transportation during the Memorial Day period, which started Thursday and ends Monday, according to AAA. The number is up 0.6 percent from last year, AAA said.

Kiesha Wiley, 24, of Richland will be among those staying close to home.

She'll likely go to cookouts with her neighbors and family, which is easier for her to do as the parent of a 5-year-old daughter.

“Traveling with kids is more expensive,” she said.

Nationally, average gas prices for the holiday weekend will not vary much from last year's $3.63 per gallon, but that doesn't hold up for the Pittsburgh area, AAA said. The average price Thursday in the region was $3.85 a gallon, 28.5 cents higher than a year ago, said Theresa Podguski, director of legislative affairs at AAA East Central.

Blame several things, said Podguski, including tighter supply on the East Coast and a state law that mandates higher-priced, summer-grade fuel be sold in seven Western Pennsylvania counties from May 1 to Sept. 15.

Vehicles remain the most popular mode of travel because they are usually the most economical, but airline travel in the region is expected to increase 2.4 percent to 283,000 people for the holiday.

The average price for roundtrip, domestic airfare nationally for the Memorial Day period is $366.64, compared to $352.01 last year, according to Courtney Scott, senior editor for Travelocity.com. The average price of a roundtrip flight from Pittsburgh is $429, compared to $397 for the same period last year.

Discount bus-service company Megabus is expecting its Memorial Day ridership to be higher than last year's, said spokesman Mike Alvich.

“Our advance bookings .... have actually started to exceed our expectations,” said Alvich, who declined to disclose specific numbers.

Pittsburgh is one of Megabus' 14 hubs and is among the top 10 of the 120 cities the company serves, he said. Some departures Friday morning and returns late Sunday and Monday — peak demand times — are expected to sell out.

Tory N. Parrish is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-5662 or tparrish@tribweb.com. Staff writer David Conti contributed to this story.

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