NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Americans just aren’t that into Labor Day.

Motorist group AAA forecasts that only 31.5 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home during the Labor Day holiday weekend, a 2.4% decrease from the 32.3 million who traveled one year ago.

The estimate follows an equally lackluster forecast of Fourth of July travel earlier this year, making the Memorial Day weekend in May the holiday of choice for about 34.9 million Americans in need of a quick getaway. 

AAA attributes the decline in travel to the slow economy and Americans’ uncertainty about it, citing that a majority of consumers don’t feel they have any extra income to spend on  travel. The group also says that escalating airfare prices and high gas prices don’t help either.

“AAA is projecting a decrease in the number of Labor Day travelers as some Americans react to recent economic uncertainty and increasing air fares,” Glen MacDonell, director of AAA Travel Services, said in a press release. “While automobile travel is expected to increase slightly, if recent declines in gasoline prices continue through Labor Day, we could see an increase in last-minute holiday weekend travel.”

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AAA’s projections are based on economic forecasting and research by IHS Global Insight, which surveyed 1,350 households about Labor Day weekend travel plans from Monday, July 25, to Friday, July 29.

Staycations have become a popular choice for cash-strapped Americans who need some time off but can’t afford to travel very far from home. For them, MainStreet has a few tips for how to make the most of the holiday weekend.

As we have previously reported, a staycation looks more appealing if you make it more like a vacation and less like rattling around the house with nothing to do. People who have done it say the key is to prepare just as you would for a trip. That means:

  • Paying the bills ahead of time, as if you’re going to be out of touch for a while.
  • Forgoing all chores. Nothing can wreck a staycation faster than the nagging feeling that you should be painting the guest room.
  • Planning out activities. If you spent a fortune to go to Paris, you’d have a list of things to do. You can do the same at home. After all, some out-of-towners will spend a bundle to visit tourist sites in your backyard
  • Not being too frugal. If you’re forgoing airfares and hotels, you probably can afford some nice dinners out.

Got some money squared away for summer’s end? Check out this MainStreet guide to squeezing the most out of short trips.

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