As the summer travel season begins in earnest this weekend, will Memorial Day find most of us in our own backyards?
All signs point to summer getaways close to home, but that doesn't have to mean at home.
Yahoo! Travel reports that searches on its Web site were mostly confined to ground travel options for the holiday. Although few people were looking to board a plane to celebrate Memorial Day, the forecast is mixed on summer air travel.
While AAA predicts 7 percent more Marylanders will take flight over the holiday weekend, the Air Transport Association, an airline industry group, expects 7 percent fewer passengers on planes this summer. That's about 150,000 fewer per day. But with so many airlines cooling their jets in desert parking lots and reducing routes, airplanes are likely to feel as crowded as ever.
Those looking to travel by car won't find bargain basement fuel prices, but experts say vacationers won't have to struggle with $4 per gallon prices either. AAA does not expect gas prices to average more than $2.50 per gallon this summer. That's more than a dollar lower than the $3.79 average at this time last year.
It's good that gas prices are down, because so are the paychecks of many Americans. Thousands of people who had jobs at this time last year are unemployed, putting a damper on travel plans. (However, those with ample savings may look at the recent steep travel discounts and start packing their bags.)
Still, AAA predicted holiday travel nationwide would rise this weekend by a slim 1.5 percent, lifted by lower fuel costs and travel discounts. In Maryland, AAA estimated a 3.9 percent increase, with 83 percent taking to the road for travel 50 miles or more round trip. The auto club says road trips will be up 2.5 percent nationwide.
But Marylanders are in a good position to hit the road - they don't call the state "Little America" for nothing. From the shores of Ocean City to the banks of Deep Creek Lake, a variety of interesting beach and mountain destinations are within a short drive.
We also share borders with four states, easily reached in just an hour or two. Three major cities - Washington, Philadelphia and New York - are all less than four hours away by car.
So, whether summer travel goes boom or bust, Marylanders are sitting pretty. We have plenty of sightseeing opportunities right in our own backyard.