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To the beach! AAA predicts most holiday travelers in 10 years

With more money in their pockets thanks to lower gas prices and an improved job market, AAA expects more than 37 million Americans to travel for Memorial Day, the most since 2005.

AAA said last week that the number of Americans taking a trip of 50 miles or more will rise 4.7 percent to 37.2 million over the period May 21 to May 25. Nearly nine of 10 travelers, or 33 million, will drive to their destination, making for crowded highways.

Gasoline should be around $1 cheaper this Memorial Day as compared with the last. The average price for a gallon of gas Friday was $2.66. Last year on the holiday it was $3.66.

In Bradenton, the average price for a gallon of gas on Friday was $2.59, according to GasBuddy.com, with the lowest price at $2.45 a gallon.

AAA says the number of people flying should rise 2.5 percent. A thriving stock market has boosted the net worth of wealthier Americans, who more easily can afford to fly for vacation.

The Bradenton area is likely to be a popular destination. So popular, the Convention and Visitor's bureau isn't even promoting it as a destination for the weekend.

"Business is already really strong for the community during the three major summer holidays and it's our job to focus on facilitating promotions during non-peak tourism seasons. So shame on us if we would do a promotion on top of an already busy time of year," said Elliott Falcione, director of the Bradenton Area CVB.

The economy is strong enough to give consumers more confidence to travel. Employers added 223,000 jobs in April after a slow start to the year. Last year, job growth averaged 226,000 a month. Although wage growth is sluggish at 2.2 percent, combined with lower gas prices it does give consumers more disposable income.

AAA is suggesting cabin fever may play a role as well.

"Following a harsh winter, many Americans are trading in their snow boots for flip flops and making plans to start the season with a vacation getaway," said Marshall L. Doney, AAA's president, in a statement.

The total number of travelers and the number opting to drive should be the highest since 2005, when 44 million people traveled, 37.3 million of them by car.

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