Here they come - Memorial Day will kick off tourist season on the Coast

Expect South Mississippi beaches and roads to be busy this weekend as the lowest gas prices in more than a decade will help fuel the second-highest Memorial Day travel volume on record.

AAA projects more than 38 million Americans will travel during the holiday travel period from Thursday to Monday. That would be 700,000 more than last year and the most since Memorial Day 2005.

"Americans are eagerly awaiting the start of summer and are ready to travel in numbers not seen in more than a decade," said Marshall Doney, AAA president and CEO. "The great American road trip is officially back, thanks to low gas prices, and millions of people from coast to coast are ready to kick off summer with a Memorial Day getaway."

In South Mississippi they will have more hotels and restaurants to choose from, and a new casino added since last year.

Tourists and locals also may have more money to spend. AAA estimates Americans have saved more than $15 billion on gas this year compared with the same period in 2015, and prices are the lowest in 11 years.

The average cost of a gallon of gasoline was $2.29 nationwide Tuesday and $2.02 in South Mississippi, both 45 cents lower than a year ago.

Those who fly to South Mississippi also will see savings. AAA's Leisure Travel Index shows average airfares for the top 40 domestic flight routes will be 26 percent cheaper this Memorial Day, with an average round-trip ticket costing $165. Hotel costs are about the same as last Memorial Day, with AAA Three Diamond Rated hotels averaging $183, and Two Diamond Rated hotels averaging $151 nightly. Car-rental rates will average $62 a day, 3 percent less than last year., in its report on Memorial Day, said 89 percent of Memorial Day fweekend travelers will drive to their destinations, up 2 percent from last year.

The weekend also kicks off the start of hot dog season, with 818 consumed every second from Memorial Day to Labor Day, or 7 billion total, according to WalletHub.

In South Mississippi, crab legs, crawfish and catfish are what's on the Memorial Day menu.

Related stories from Biloxi Sun Herald