It's the first three-day weekend of the summer vacation season, and consumers are ready to travel.
Though high gasoline prices have prompted some to reconsider trips, travel experts are cautiously optimistic that more people will travel this spring and summer, whether by car or airplane, than in 2010.
The Air Transport Association says domestic airlines will carry 206.2 million passengers in June, July and August, up 1.5 percent from last year.
And AAA Texas says 2.75 million Texans will travel this weekend, an increase of 1 percent. Nationally, the travel club says 34.9 million Americans will travel more than 50 miles on Memorial Day weekend, 0.2 percent higher than 2010.
Fuel prices have fallen by more than 10 cents a gallon in the past week but are still over $3.50, the point at which many consumers say they reconsider travel decisions, said Dan Ronan, spokesman for AAA Texas. Fort Worth residents, for example, may travel to San Antonio instead of St. Louis, he said. "They'll keep their trips a little closer to home," Ronan said.
In Texas, 88 percent of travelers say they are driving to their weekend destination, while 11 percent will fly.
Airlines, which have successfully increased fares seven times already this year, expect full planes this spring and summer.
"We have good reason to be cautiously optimistic," American Airlines Chief Executive Gerard Arpey said at his carrier's shareholder meeting this month.
Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly has also had a positive outlook for spring and summer travel, telling shareholders this month that bookings for May and June are running strong, though he remains concerned about the lackluster national economy.
While more passengers are expected to fly this spring and summer, the Air Transport Association said volumes are still well below those of spring and summer 2007, when 217.6 million flew.
Of this spring and summer's air travelers, 26.3 million are expected to fly abroad and about 180 million domestically.
Metroplex tourism officials hope that travelers visit the Stockyards, Six Flags Over Texas, a Texas Rangers game or the new water park at the Gaylord Texan.
Hotels in Arlington are seeing more last-minute bookings than usual, according to Jay Burress, chief executive of the Arlington Convention & Visitors Bureau. He said the reopening of the Texas Giant roller coaster and the American League champion Rangers are bringing more visitors to the city.
"Being a close-drive market as opposed to a more distant destination" is an advantage when fuel prices are high, Burress said.
Fort Worth is banking on filling hotels with conventiongoers. David Dubois, chief executive of the Fort Worth Convention & Visitors Bureau, said the city has more convention business on the books for June and July as well as a few new conventions and horse shows in late summer. The city expects about 10,000 people for the Texas High School Coaches Association convention in July, and the National Reining Horse Association will ride into town in late August.
But Dubois still hopes to fill hotel rooms with leisure travelers looking for a destination that is a five- or six-hour drive from home.
This report includes material from The Associated Press.
Andrea Ahles, 817-390-7613