An improved economy and moderate gas prices are helping fuel the travel demand during the Fourth of July holiday.
About 35 million Americans -- an increase of more than 17 percent from 2009 -- are expected to take a trip at least 50 miles away from home through Monday, according to AAA.
And many will use a car or RV for travel.
Local RV rental and sales business is booming this year, said Mike Urain, customer care manager and delivery coordinator at Russ Dean Family RV in the Pasco Autoplex.
Most RV renters plan ahead and make advance reservations, he said. By Sunday, all of his rental fleet, which includes two travel trailers and two motor homes, will be rented, he said. Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day are especially popular with renters, Urain said.
It's hard to find last-minute rentals, said John Ramsey, owner of Broadmoor RV & Truck Center off of Interstate 182 in Pasco. All of his nine rental RVs are booked through the summer, he said.
A number of his customers travel to Yellowstone National Park or visit parks on the rivers or go to the coast, he said. "People want to take their family camping."
A lot of renters eventually end up buying an RV, he said. He had record-breaking June sales, Ramsey said. "Last year, it was a struggle because a lot of manufacturers went bankrupt."
Lower gas prices and the relatively stable Tri-City economy is helping the RV business, said Ramsey and Urain.
In many cases, people find it cheaper to drive than to fly, said Dave Overstreet of AAA Washington. It also helps them avoid airport security hassles and potential delays, he said.
Las Vegas, Yellowstone National Park and Coeur d'Alene are some of the popular destination for the potential 5.45 million travelers in the Pacific region. About 4.72 million of them will use a car this holiday.
Motorists will pay nearly the same for gas as they did a year ago. In Washington, regular gas sold for about $3 a gallon on averageThursday, according to AAA's Daily Fuel Gauge Report. In the Tri-Cities, the price was slightly higher.
Per capita gas consumption in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and British Columbia increased in 2009, reversing a decade long trend of decline, says a report released earlier this week by Sightline Institute in Seattle.
Total gas consumption in the Northwest rose by 2 percent, or 100 million gallons, largely because of lower gas prices in the face of declining gas use in the U.S., the report said.
Moderate temperatures are expected over the weekend in Washington. There's a likelihood of rain in Western Washington and the northwest part of Oregon todaybut other areas near the Blue Mountains should largely be dry, said Rob Brooks, hydro-meteorological technician at the Pendleton office of the National Weather Service.
Temperatures in the Mid-Columbia area are expected to be about 75 degrees today. On the west side of the state, temperatures will drop to about 60 degrees, Brooks said.
Expect mostly clear skies in Eastern Washington and partly cloudy skies across the Cascades on Saturday and Sunday. "Sunday would be slightly warmer," Brooks said.
State transportation officials warn drivers to plan for possible delays at Canadian border crossings, ferry docks and several major highways, particularly Highway 2, Interstate 5 at the Canadian border and south of Olympia through Lewis County.
Drivers on Interstate 90 over Snoqualmie Pass can expect higher-than-normal traffic volumes this afternoon, Saturday morning and Monday afternoon, says the Washington State Department of Transportation.
Drivers also should expect additional traffic on Highway 2 at Stevens Pass, primarily today and Monday.
For updated information on road conditions, go to www.wsdot.wa.gov, or call the 24-hour traveler information line at 511.
-- Pratik Joshi: 582-1541; email@example.com