Californians planning to travel over the upcoming Memorial Day holiday weekend will be watching their pennies ... and staying on the ground for the most part.
Those were among the conclusions of AAA's annual Memorial Day holiday weekend travel forecast, released Wednesday.
AAA projected that slightly more than 4 million Californians plan on traveling 50 miles or more over the three-day weekend, a 2.1 percent decline from last year.
AAA also noted that nearly 350,000 residents plan to travel by air over the weekend, a sizable 12.5 percent drop from last year.
The average cost of domestic airfares has been rising, a byproduct of high fuel expenses and various fees recently introduced by major carriers.
AAA Northern California spokeswoman Cynthia Harris said the increasing cost of air travel "is definitely one of the reasons that fewer (Californians) will be traveling by air. Airfares have shot up considerably since the beginning of the year."
Harris said it appears prospective air travelers also were put off by a spate of flight delays in April, a situation caused by air traffic controller furloughs amid the so-called sequestration cuts to federal programs.
Even though lawmakers quickly acted to circumvent sequestration and put furloughed air traffic controllers back to work, the flight delays occurred during a prime period when air travelers typically make reservations for Memorial Day weekend flights.
"I think the speculation that there were going to be major delays at airports for a long time made people a little hesitant. I think it's possible that had something to do with it," Harris said.
AAA predicted that about 3.5 million state residents will travel by motor vehicle, about the same as last year.
While AAA's California survey found that $4-a-gallon gas prices would not affect the plans of 62 percent of travelers, nearly 40 percent plan to economize in other areas. AAA said those belt-tightening measures include spending less on entertainment, staying at lower-priced hotels, staying closer to home or bunking with family and friends.
Nationally, AAA forecasts that about 34.8 million people will journey 50 miles or more during the Memorial Day weekend, down about 0.9 percent from last year.
Call The Bee's Mark Glover, (916) 321-1184.