The number of state residents traveling this Memorial Day weekend is expected to fall slightly from last year.

A survey of travelers released Wednesday by AAA Colorado states about 600,000 Coloradans, or 11.7 percent of the state's population, are expected to travel 50 miles or more this holiday weekend; that's a 0.6 percent decrease from last year. Nationwide, 34.8 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more from home during the holiday weekend, a 0.9 percent decrease from last year.

According to the survey, 62 percent of those travelers were not letting gas prices effect their travel plans. But the survey was taken before a recent surge in prices, said Wave Dreher, spokeswoman for AAA Colorado. On Wednesday, the state average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline was $3.847, an increase of more than 30 cents a gallon in the past month and above the year-ago cost of $3.767, according to AAA's Daily Fuel Guage Report; in Colorado Springs, the average Wednesday was $3.814, according to AAA.

Dreher said she did not think the jump in fuel costs will dramatically change the survey's outcome.

"I don't think those who have planned a vacation will cancel their trips," she said, "but those who may have gone somewhere on a whim may take a second look."

Whether gas prices effect a traveler's decision likely depends on how far they will drive, Dreher said.

"If it costs only $2 more a tank to go and you are not going that far, it will not affect your decision."

In a sign that people may be feeling better about the economy, Colorado travelers this Memorial Day weekend are expected to spend $730 per person, or 12 percent more than the $652 average spent last year, the AAA survey found.

Travelers face higher rental car and hotel prices, according to the survey. Hotel rates nationwide for AAA Three Diamond lodgings have increased an average of 4 percent to $166 per night from last year. Daily rental car rates have increased 19 percent from last year to an average of $43 per day.

AAA's projections are based on economic forecasting and research by Colorado-based IHS Global Insight.


Contact Ned Hunter: 636-0275.