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Look for more travelers this holiday weekend

  • Visitors purchase tickets to the Tybee Island Light Station and Museum on Thursday morning. Light Station staff are expecting large crowds this Memorial Day weekend, officially kicking off the islands busy season. (Katie Nussbaum/Savannah Morning News)

More people are expected to hit the roads for Memorial Day travel this weekend than have done so since 2005, according to AAA.

Nearly 40 million people are expected to travel more than 50 miles from home Thursday through Monday by plane, car, rail or water. About one million more people will travel this year than in 2016.

Air travel is expected to increase 5.5 percent over last year, with 2.9 million Americans taking to the skies this Memorial Day. Travel by other modes of transportation, including cruises, trains and buses, will increase 2.9 percent, to 1.75 million travelers.

The majority of travelers — about 88 percent — will do so by car and drivers can also expect to pay a bit more at the pump than in previous years. The national average price for a gallon of gas today is $2.34, 11 cents more than last year and the highest it’s been since 2015. The average price of gas in Georgia was slightly lower at $2.19 and in Savannah it was $2.20.

Travelers across the board can expect increases, though. The average round-trip plane ticket came in at $181, which is nine percent higher than last year. Hotel room costs have also gone up since last year with the averageAAA Three Diamond hotel costing $215 a night, which is an 18 percent increase. Rental car rates increased by seven percent to an average of $66 a day.

Local impact

Based on AAA travel bookings, Orlando is expected to be the top destination for travelers this year followed by Rome, Italy, and London. But crowds are expected a little closer to home, too.

The visitors will be a welcome sight on Tybee Island this weekend with Memorial Day officially kicking off the island’s busy season. Many business owners are hoping to make up for lost time and revenue following Hurricane Matthew last October and Tropical Storm Hermine last Labor Day weekend.

With a sunset tour schedule for this evening and multiple school groups and Girl Scout Troops on the books, Desiree Woods, director of membership and education at the Tybee Island Light Station and Museum said the weekend promises to be a busy one.

“We have two sunset tours during the month in the busy season and you get to be at the top of the tour when the sun goes down, so it’s a unique opportunity,” Woods said.

Last Memorial Day weekend the site averaged about 700 visitors a day and Woods is optimistic that the numbers will increase this year.

Woods is hoping to also see Tybee’s regular visitors return to the island for the first busy season since Hurricane Matthew. The Light Station didn’t receive extensive damage from Matthew, but it weas closed for 10 days and closed early this week due to severe weather that struck the eastern part of the county.

“Since the national news covered what happened here with Matthew so thoroughly, we’re hoping that people don’t opt for the Gulf Coast or visit other places. We really want them to return here,” Woods said.

“There are still some hotels that are closed, so there isn’t as much space for people, but we’re hoping for at least as much as last year and hopefully more.”

Visit Tybee director Sara Lane said much of the island’s lodging inventory is booking up fast and owners are expecting another busy summer with both locals and those visiting from out of town.

“Our lodging businesses are expecting a sold-out weekend indicating many overnight visitors are headed to the island for the holiday weekend,” Lane said.

“The busy season has really already started with so many great events on the island and beautiful spring weather. Memorial Day weekend will certainly kick off the summer season.”

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