HOLIDAY TRAVEL TIPS

    GASSING UP: Use fuelcostcalculator.aaa.com to help budget your trip and fuelgaugereport.aaa.com to check daily gas price averages where you will be visiting. To find the lowest priced stations, use an online app like the club's TripTik Mobile.

    CHECK IT OUT: Make sure tires have correct amount of air and inspect hoses, belts and fluid levels.

    TIMING: Travel during off-peak times to avoid congestion, which wastes fuel. Skip the drive-through when getting food for the road.

    EASY DOES IT: Drive gently, as if an egg were under your gas and brake pedals. Accelerating and braking gradually by anticipating traffic conditions will greatly improve your fuel economy.

    Source: Automobile Club of Southern California

Memorial Day weekend may mark the official start of the summer travel season but it's just a big chill pill to Aaron Herscovitz. | See photo gallery.

The 22-year-old doesn't plan to stray far from his Calabasas home.

"I don't think I'll be going anywhere. Probably to the beach or by the pool," he said on a hot Sunday that brought a preview of summer.

"Staycations," short trips close to home, will likely continue to be an economic vacation alternative this weekend and into the summer.

Travel this weekend will increase, but only slightly, compared with last Memorial Day, industry experts say.

TOP 5 MEMORIAL DAY DESTINATIONS FOR SOUTHERN CALIFORNIANS

    1. San Diego

    2. Las Vegas

    3. Grand Canyon

    4. San Francisco

    5. Central Coast (Santa Barbara to Monterey)

    Source: Automobile Club of Southern California

About 2.6 million travelers from Southern California will take overnight trips of at least 50 miles Memorial Day weekend, an increase of 1.6 percent from last year's 2.56 million, according to the Auto Club. But it's basically the same number as in 2010.

Statewide, the club predicts 4.18 million holiday travelers this year, up from 4.12 million in 2011. And nationwide, holiday travel is also expected to increase 1.2 percent to 34.8 million.

Beaches and state parks are always a popular destination this weekend. So far 8,857 reservations have been made at state facilities, said Roy Stearns, spokesman for the California Department of Parks and Recreation.

"All the popular beach parks are sold out but there are parks that have availability," he said in an email.

The Auto Club predicts that the majority of Southern California travelers - 2.19 million - will drive, an increase of 1.7 percent from last year.

But driving won't be a big bargain.

While gasoline prices are coming off their recent peak, they remain higher than a year ago. On Thursday the price of a gallon of regular gas cost $4.33 in the Los Angeles metro area, up from $4.12 a year ago.

Duffy, a Westie, sits in the shade of an umbrella with Dave Boisselle, of Canyon Country, while camping at Thornhill Broome Campground at Point Mugu State
Duffy, a Westie, sits in the shade of an umbrella with Dave Boisselle, of Canyon Country, while camping at Thornhill Broome Campground at Point Mugu State Park, Tuesday, May 22, 2012. (Michael Owen Baker/Staff Photographer)

At one point this week the average price of a gallon of regular in the state was a record 62 cents higher than the national average, said Allison Roberts, a spokeswoman at the California Energy Commission.

Prices on the West Coast this spring outpaced the nation because of a refinery fire in Washington state, which impacted supply as did scheduled maintenance at California's 12 refineries.

Factors are now in place that should result in prices falling, Roberts said.

"Production appears to be at a pretty healthy level now. There is no reason to expect there will be a problem with supplies. What goes on with the price, who knows? It does look like the current spike is declining," she said.

High fuel prices won't keep Dave Boisselle and his wife, Vicki, from seeing the USA. They are serious road trippers, hitting the highway in a quarter-million dollar, diesel-powered 40-foot-long motor home with a 130 gallon gas tank.

A fill-up at Thursday's price of $4.35 cents a gallon would cost $565.50.

The retired couple budgets about $10,000 for travel annually and Boisselle, 70, considers it a fairly economical vacation.

"We prepare most of our food here, we sleep in it every night and we pay nominal space rent at a park," he said, relaxing this week at Thornhill Broome Beach State Park near Point Mugu. "And when we go back east, we'll go for two or three months.

But they'll stick close to home this weekend.

"The highways are a mess, usually, and there are just a lot of crazy people on the road. We prefer not to travel on Memorial Day," he said.

Flying seems to be falling out of favor. The Auto Club said the number of travelers flying to their destinations this weekend is expected to fall 5.1 percent at the state and local level and by 5.5 percent nationwide.

"With airfares moving much higher in recent months, we had fewer air travel advance bookings for the summer, and instead travelers were looking for a better value for their money with options such as drive vacations, domestic tours and cruises," Filomena Andre, the Auto Club's vice president for travel products and services, said in a statement.

Chris Pifer, left, and Nicole Hoffman, second from left, both of Simi Valley, play cards with their friends while camping at Leo Carrillo State Park in the
Chris Pifer, left, and Nicole Hoffman, second from left, both of Simi Valley, play cards with their friends while camping at Leo Carrillo State Park in the Santa Monica Mountains on Tuesday, May 22, 2012. (Michael Owen Baker/Staff Photographer)
 

But a Hawaiian vacation was irresistible for Woodland Hills residents Pam and Jim Dunn, who booked a nine-day trip with the club earlier this week. They've been to the islands before but this will be their first to Maui in 21 years of marriage.

"It will be like our first honeymoon," said Pam Dunn, 77.

"A real nice honeymoon," said her 72-year old husband.

They both still work - she owns a business promotion firm and he's a counselor for the Neptune Society - and are planning a trip back east in the fall.

"When you get a little older, you like to do things together. You work hard and you want to have fun," he said.

Los Angeles International Airport officials estimate more than 750,000 travelers will pass through the airport this weekend, 7.4 percent fewer than a year ago.

That's consistent with industry expectations for this weekend compared with last year due to higher fares resulting from higher fuel prices.

But for the summer season, passenger traffic through LAX is expected to increase 4 percent to 19.1 million travelers due to the economic recovery and airlines adding more overseas flights.

Tom Parsons, editor and publisher of BestFares.com, said there is a hedge against the higher rates. Be flexible in your travel plans and try to leave and return at midweek.

When you buy tickets also matters, too, because airlines try to match fares. Avoid buying tickets on weekends if possible.

"Don't even start looking until 3 o'clock on Tuesday. It's best to wait until 3 or 4 in the afternoon to let everyone get on the same page," Parsons said.

greg.wilcox@dailynews.com

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