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Holiday travelers feeling the budgetary squeeze, says AAA
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Despite declining gas prices, fewer Californians are projected to travel for the Fourth of July weekend than did a year ago, AAA Northern California announced this week.

This Fourth of July more than 4.6 million Californians are projected to travel 50 miles or more from their homes, according to an AAA survey. While the number is still high it’s down 2.3 percent from last year, primarily due to still-high fuel prices, fears of unemployment and the lagging economy.

“Travelers are definitely feeling the budgetary squeeze this year,” said AAA Northern California spokesperson Cynthia Harris. “Although some Californians may be postponing their travel plans, many others are bucking the economic headwinds by opting for shorter vacations and by cutting back on travel expenditures in order to afford a weekend getaway.”

More than 3.6 Californians are expected to hit the state’s roads by driving this weekend, down 2.9 percent from 2010. Those renting vehicles will pay 3 percent more than a year ago, an average of $56 for the weekend.

Those driving will experience a slight downturn in prices at the pump, down 6.4 cents per gallon in the last week to an average of $3.71 per gallon in the Modesto metropolitan area, which includes Turlock, according to A gallon of regular unleaded gasoline can be found as cheap as $3.49 in Turlock, however, Turlock is one of the least expensive cities for gasoline in Stanislaus County.

Despite the fall, down 24.4 cents per gallon since last month, gasoline remains 70.9 cents per gallon higher than a year ago.

In hopes of avoiding some of those gas prices, some travelers are taking to the air. Air travel is projected to increase 1.7 percent, to 541,000 Californians, despite an 11 percent airfare increase for the Independence Day weekend, AAA said. Round trip tickets average $213 to top 40 U.S. air routes this weekend.

But even if travelers save a few bucks on gasoline, they’ll pay more for housing once they reach their destinations; hotel rates are up 3 percent over 2010, averaging $147 per night.

In total, a West Coast family of four is projected to spend $782 on a vacation this weekend, covering an average of 602 miles.

Nationally, over 39 million people are projected to travel 50 or more miles during Fourth of July weekend, a 2.5 percent year-over-year decline.

To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.