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More Americans heading out of town Memorial Day weekend, AAA says

As a reward for those winter days of incessant shoveling, coupled with an improving sense of economic well-being, Americans in greater numbers say they're heading out of town for the long Memorial Day weekend.

Projected travel of 50 miles or more from home is up this year by 1.5 percent, according to an annual AAA travel forecast released Friday.

"The memories of the harsh winter has Americans chomping at the bit to take a trip," said Robert Sinclair Jr., AAA New York's media relations manager based in Garden City. An estimated 36.1 million people, up from last year's 35.5 million, are planning escapes for the holiday weekend, which the AAA defines as Thursday, May 22, through Monday, May 26.

Also a major factor is continuing economic improvement, with Sinclair pointing to upward trends in consumer spending, disposable income, consumer confidence and the employment outlook.

This year's projection is for the second highest volume of travelers since 2000, this for the weekend that's considered the unofficial kickoff to summer, AAA said.

As usual, the largest percentage -- 88.1 percent -- plans to travel by car, with air travel expected to rise by 2.4 percent to this year's projected 7.1 percent of holiday weekend travelers, the forecast said.

Of course, Memorial Day weekend is also about residents exploring their own backyards, as well as dealing with crowds of visitors for whom Long Island is the destination.

"We live on an island," said Eileen Peters, spokeswoman on Long Island for the state Department of Transportation. "We have beautiful parks and beautiful beaches," not to mention attractions like the Bethpage Air Show at Jones Beach. "If the weather cooperates, there's no better place to be."

As for this year's visitors and based on East End lodging pre-bookings and other factors, R. Moke McGowan, president of the Long Island Convention & Visitors Bureau and Sports Commission, says "we have been anticipating an excellent Memorial Day weekend."

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