PORTLAND, Maine -- AAA projects 36.1 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more from home during the Memorial Day holiday weekend, a 1.5 percent increase from the 35.5 million people who traveled last year.

Kicking off the summer driving season, more than eight in 10 travelers will be driving to their destinations.

The Memorial Day holiday travel period is defined as Thursday, May 22 to Monday, May 26.

Highlights from 2014 Memorial Day Travel Forecast include:

* Memorial Day holiday travel volume is expected to reach a new post-recession high with 36.1 million Americans taking a trip

* 1.65 million expected to originate in New England

* AAA expected to respond to 660,000 calls for help over the 5 day period (AAA Northern New England likely to come to the rescue of nearly 7,000 members)

* The 2014 forecast is 2.6 percent higher than the ten-year historical average and the second highest travel volume since 2000

* Eighty-eight percent of travelers (31.8 million) to travel by automobile, an increase from 31.4 million last year

* Holidayair travel expected to increase from 2.4 percent to 2.6 million leisure travelers

* Travel by other modes of transportation including cruise, trains and buses will see the largest increase, up 6.5 percent (total 1.7 million travelers)

* Travelers will encounter slightly higher prices with airfares six percent higher, mid-range hotels up two percent and car rentals costing one percent more.

"As we enter into the summer travel season with warmer temperatures, thoughts of historic cold are still fresh in the minds of New Englanders," said Pat Moody, manager of public affairs, AAA Northern New England. "The winter blues appear to have given Americans a renewed interest in travel as holiday travel is expected to hit a new post-recession high."

In addition to seasonal rising temperatures, improvements in several key economic factors are driving the expectation for more holiday travelers this year.

"As the economy continues to improve at a slow and steady pace consumer spending, disposable income, consumer confidence and the employment outlook are trending up which is welcomed news for the travel industry," continued Moody.

The unforgiving winter was a hindrance to economic growth at the beginning of the year but economic factors influenced by weather, such as car and home sales, appear to be resolving themselves now. Indicative of the unusually harsh winter, AAA Northern New England experienced an increase of nearly 17 percent in battery related calls this winter. Impact of gasoline prices on travel plans:

AAA expects that most drivers will pay lower gas prices by Memorial Day weekend due to rising supplies. AAA predicts that holiday gas prices to be relatively similar or even slightly less than last year’s national Memorial Day average of $3.63 per gallon, though unexpected developments such as refinery problems or international events could result in higher costs. With many plans already made and budgets set, it is unlikely that gas prices will have a significant effect on travel plans compared to a year ago.

Travel costs to rise slightly:

According to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, hotel rates for AAA Three Diamond lodgings are expected to increase just two percent from one year ago with travelers spending an average of $169 per night compared to $166 last year.

The average hotel rate for AAA Two Diamond hotels has risen three percent with an average cost of $124 per night.

Weekend daily car rental rates will average $44, only one percent higher than last year. Airfares are experiencing the largest increase. The average round-trip, discounted fares for the top 40 U.S. routes have increased six percent to $227 from $215 last year.

AAA’s projections are based on economic forecasting and research by IHS Global Insight. The Colorado-based business information provider teamed with AAA in 2009 to jointly analyze travel trends during the major holidays.