AAA: More SC drivers to travel this Memorial Day

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - If you're hitting the road for the long weekend, you won't be alone. AAA says more South Carolina drivers are expected to travel this Memorial Day weekend than last year.

AAA says South Carolina has the lowest gas prices in the country, and they believe that will inspire an estimated 443,550 motorists to pack up and drive-off to a Memorial Day weekend destination.

AAA say the number of drivers is up about 1.5 percent from last year, and if you include air, train, bus and boat travelers, more than 505,000 South Carolinians are expected to travel at least 50 miles away.

While the number of drivers is expected to be up, AAA says air travel will be down about five percent in South Carolina. They believe more travelers are ditching the airways because of fees, even though the average trip this weekend is expected to be about 737 miles one-way.

AAA says while the official start of the holiday weekend is today, if you're looking to head out early on Friday, you may not be able to get out soon enough.

"If you're planning on getting out of town at 2pm and thinking it's going to beat your 5pm traffic, that plan might not work out so well," said Mason Ellerbe with AAA's Irmo office.  "It's really going to start close to Noon on Friday, and the state's requiring there to be no lanes closed down on Friday from Noon to 6am on Tuesday."

AAA says the most congested times will be Friday afternoon with traffic increasing earlier in the day than usual, and also Monday evening as travelers head back home.

AAA says to make sure you top off your tank before you cross over state lines because gas is about 20 cents higher in North Carolina and Georgia.

In addition to lower gas prices, AAA believes a good weekend weather forecast and a slowly improving economy are other factors that will help boost travel for South Carolinians, and they believe this unofficial start of summer is a good indicator of this year's summer travel season.

"We do expect summer travel to be up a little bit over maybe what you saw last year because gas prices are down about 10 cents a gallon from this time last year [in South Carolina],' said Ellerbe. "So people may be taking two trips to the beach this summer because it's just a little bit less expensive to make that drive to Charleston, Myrtle Beach or wherever they go."

AAA says if you are traveling this weekend, they also have a free app that will help you map your route and find the cheapest gas prices along the way.

AAA's national travel forecast estimates nearly 35 million Americans will travel in all, which is a slight decline from 2012. However, auto travel is expected to be up nationally about a quarter percent and will be the transportation of choice.