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Lower gasoline prices mean road trips are back this Memorial Day

Americans are ready for a break, and they're being enticed out of their homes by big travel discounts, according to AAA.

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Source: IHS Global Insight, AAA/ Rich Clabaugh/ Staff

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Last Memorial Day, many Americans, concerned about the economy, ate their hamburgers and hot dogs in the backyard. This year, the nation will start to hit the road again, perhaps chowing down with family and friends hundreds of miles away.

But the yen to travel is not likely to continue through the entire summer. Instead, some travel economists say, the weight of the economy will probably drag down spending on trips to the beach, cruises to nowhere, and lobster dinners in Maine. This will keep things challenging for one of America's largest industries – the hospitality business, which employs 8 million people.

"Economic conditions are worse than last year," says Kenneth McGill, executive managing director of travel and tourism at IHS Global Insight in Eddystone, Pa.

Still, this Memorial Day, gasoline prices are significantly lower than they were in 2008, when some motorists were paying more than $3.94 a gallon. Despite a recent rise, the current average US price of gasoline is $2.25 a gallon, according to AAA.

Lower fuel prices is a key reason that AAA, a federation of motor clubs, predicted Tuesday that travel this Memorial Day holiday will rise by 1.5 percent, or 500,000 travelers. By comparison, travel dropped 10 percent last year.

Americans say they're ready for a break, and they're being enticed out of their homes by big travel discounts, according to AAA, which conducts an annual survey. Americans are also keenly aware that the price of fuel is less expensive than last year. And most people aren't concerned about the H1N1 flu outbreak, the AAA survey found.

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