Valley residents looking for a final summer getaway this Labor Day weekend have some good news: Gas prices are down a bit, and campsites in Yosemite and Sequoia-Kings Canyon national parks are still available.
Gas prices dropped slightly in the lead up to the Labor Day weekend. Thursday, the average gas price for a gallon of unleaded gasoline was $3.87 in Fresno and $3.83 in the Visalia-Tulare-Porterville area, according to AAA of Northern California.
AAA's Labor Day travel survey found that more than 3.9 million Californians will travel 50 miles or more during the holiday weekend, a 1.6% increase compared to last year.
"Californians are more optimistic about their financial situation, and consumer spending continues to outpace disposable income," Cynthia Harris, AAA Northern California spokeswoman, said in a news release. "This indicates that Californians are willing to take on debt to finance their end-of-the-summer getaway."
And some may have to, since traveling is slightly more expensive this year. The average hotel rate at AAA three-diamond-rated hotel rooms is up 6% from last year, to an average $171 a night. Air fares are up 2% to an average $219 per ticket, but car rental prices have stayed steady.
Those driving to Yosemite and Sequoia-Kings Canyon parks should be able to find campsites on a first-come, first-served basis.
Yosemite Valley already is booked, said Park Service spokeswoman Kari Cobb. But 550 sites will be available along the park's high-country route, Tioga Road.
"You need to get there early," she said.
Nearly 900 first-come, first-served sites will be available at Sequoia-Kings Canyon, said parks spokeswoman Dana Dierkes. At Dorst Creek in Sequoia, there will be 181 sites that are usually reserved, but this year will be available first-come, first-served.
"We had been limiting reservations all summer because of the dry year," Dierkes said. "We have been evaluating water resources all summer long, and we know now that there will be enough to open those sites."
As for air travel from Fresno Yosemite International Airport, spokeswoman Rhonda Jorn said there's no particular expectation for an end-of-summer surge over the Labor Day weekend -- mostly because nearly all of the flights to and from FYI are flying at or near capacity.
"The load factors for all of our airlines are already above 90%," Jorn said, so there's not a lot of room for extra passengers. "We're expecting robust travel this weekend, just like the rest of the year."
SkyWest Airlines will be making the last of its United Express flights between Fresno and Las Vegas on Monday. After that, Allegiant Air will be the only airline offering nonstop flights between the two cities.
Jorn said that summer is historically the peak air-travel season at FYI. Over the past couple of years, that traffic has been boosted by Allegiant's seasonal direct flights between Fresno and Honolulu. The last of those flights was earlier this month.
Observing the holiday
The following places will be closed or not operating Monday in observance of Labor Day:
Colleges and universities
City, county, state and federal offices
Clovis, Tulare and Kings Area Rural transit agencies
Post offices and mail delivery
Madera waste collection (Monday pickup will be on Tuesday)
Visalia waste collection (Monday pickup is Tuesday and Tuesday pickup is Wednesday)
Tulare waste collection (Monday pickup is Tuesday and Tuesday pickup is Wednesday)
Hanford waste collection (Monday pickup is Tuesday and Tuesday pickup is Wednesday)
The following places will operate on the holiday:
Fresno and Clovis waste collections
Fresno Area Express (weekend service)
Porterville Colt (Saturday schedule)
Staff writers Bethany Clough, Mark Grossi and Tim Sheehan contributed to this report. To comment on this story, email firstname.lastname@example.org.