On the Money

Sunday drivers: As 38M+ people hit the road, here's what to expect

Road trip summer

Pack your bags and hit the road!

That's what more than an estimated 38 million Americans are doing this weekend, making it the busiest Memorial Day weekend since 2005 and one of the busiest on record. The AAA estimates that 700,000 more people will be traveling this weekend compared to last year—and almost 90 percent of them will be driving.

So what's motivating these road trips? Low gas prices. While prices at the pump are at their highest level for the year (the current national average is $2.32 a gallon) it's at the lowest Memorial Day price level since 2005.

"The ten year Memorial Day average is $3.15 so we're significantly below that," Senior GasBuddy.com Analyst Vera Gibbons told CNBC's "On the Money" in an interview. Meanwhile the money's adding up in ways most economists say works like a giant tax cut.

"Americans have saved $18 billion dollars on gasoline so far this year compared to last," said Robert Sinclair Jr, AAA's NY media relations manager.

Other factors persuading Americans to drive rather than fly include avoiding long waits at the airport's security checkpoints, heightened fears over terrorism and the Zika virus raging overseas, which experts say is likely to surface in the mainland U.S. sometime this summer.

"Europe travel is down by 13 percent [and] you've got the Zika virus that has a lot of families saying 'We don't want to take a beachy vacation to the Caribbean or Mexico, it's too risky," said Gibbons.

Play it safe

If you plan to hit the road, there are some precautions drivers can take to help ensure a safe journey.

"We perform 29 million emergency road service calls a year, 17 million are for flat tires, dead batteries and people locking their keys in the car," said Sinclair.

He said before hitting the road, drivers should check the car's tire pressure to make sure they are properly inflated. Also travelers can use the "penny or the quarter test" to check for wear and tear.

"You put Lincoln or Washington's head upside down in the tread and the tread should cover their heads. That means you have enough tread to deal with any standing water," said Sinclair.

According to a survey conducted by AAA, 35 percent of Americans neglect regular maintenance on their cars. Not only will this increase your risk of ending up on the side of the road, Gibbons said a properly maintained car has better fuel efficiency.

Where's everyone going?

A woman pumps gas at the Victory gas station in Pembroke Pines, Florida.
AAA: Gas prices climb to six-month high

To help save time and gas, Gibbons says travelers like the application iExit, which tells users what they can expect to find at upcoming highway exits.

As for the kids, Gibbons says there are several apps that let them help plan activities.

Children "are using apps like Roadside America, where they can find the funky cool interesting things to do," Gibbons said. "They can find things like the house that's shaped like a shoe in Pennsylvania and the 90 ton elephant made of tin and wood in New Jersey."

As for food, which is a big part of the American road trip, Gibbons recommends app TV Food Maps which locates eateries and the restaurants of chefs that have been featured.

The AAA estimates that half the American population will be taking a trip this summer. So where will they be heading?

On the east coast, top destinations include Orlando, Miami and Myrtle Beach. Over on the west coast, tourists are expected to invade cities like Los Angeles and San Diego.

For everyone else, there's also the U.S.'s neighbor to the north. "For a third of the population [Canada] is just a day's drive away – so Canada is going to be a big winner this summer," says Gibbons.

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