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Florida Labor Day travel: smaller crowds, bigger deals

If you've got the cash, this Labor Day weekend looks like a good time to hit the road or take to the skies.

Airports will be less crowded, highways not as congested and bargains in play for hotels and last-minute flights, travel professionals say.

Driving: AAA forecasts that 39.1 million Americans will take a trip of 50 miles or longer, down 13.1 percent from last year's record Labor Day weekend. The auto club attributes the national decline to the holiday falling later in the month, when the school year has already started for many children.

About 1.9 million Floridians will take a trip over Labor Day weekend, off 15.4 percent from last year. The decline is likely more related to the economy, specifically the state's double-digit unemployment rate.

Driving will be cheaper than last year, with the average national price for a gallon of regular at $2.62 today, a full $1 cheaper than last Labor Day.

Flying: 1 million fewer passengers will fly over the holiday than a year earlier, according to the Air Transport Association, the trade group for U.S. airlines. That's down 3.5 percent from last year, despite lower fares overall compared with last year.

Planes will still be full or close to it because of airline capacity reductions, said association president James May. But lines at the airport should be shorter.

Hotels: The average nightly rate nationwide is $138, down 15 percent from last Labor Day weekend, with some of the biggest declines in New York City (20 percent) and San Diego (23 percent), according to Travelocity.com. "It's the cheapest three-day holiday of the year," said Jennifer Gaines, contributing editor for the online travel agency.

Locally, the InterContinental Hotel in Tampa's West Shore district is offering a "Labor Day Stacation" special with rooms for $89 per night and complimentary breakfast at Shula's Steak House. Many other Tampa Bay hotels will have discounts in September for the start of the slow fall travel season.

Steve Huettel can be reached at shuettel@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3384.

Florida Labor Day travel: smaller crowds, bigger deals 08/26/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 26, 2009 9:24pm]
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