LANHAM, Md. (WNEW/AP) — More Washington-area residents are expected to travel this Labor Day weekend, reaching a new post-recession high for the region.

AAA Mid-Atlantic says that the number of people taking a trip at least 50 miles away from home is anticipated to increase slightly this year.

That’s more than 842,000 people in the D.C. area traveling during the Thursday through Monday holiday weekend.

The majority of people are expected to travel by car.

“All told, nearly nine out of 10 (87 percent) Washingtonians will travel 50 miles or more from home by automobile,” said John Townsend, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Manager of Public and Government Affairs. “It remains the preferred and cheapest mode of transportation for a couple traveling with children trying to squeeze in a memorable family getaway before the school year goes into high gear.”

Gas prices, at their cheapest for Labor Day in four years, have brought a welcome relief to motorists.

The current national average for the price of gas is $3.44, compared to $3.59 on Labor Day last year. Prices in the D.C. region are about 5 cents cheaper than the national average, coming in at $3.39.

Motorists are being reminded to buckle up and drive sober and distraction-free while traveling for the upcoming holiday.

They also should avoid peak travel times.

“If past trends hold true this Labor Day, for holiday travelers departing the Washington metro area for the weekend will find slowing traffic beginning at 2 p.m. on Friday and the worst time to travel between 5-6 p.m.,” Townsend said.

So, when is the ideal time to hit the road?

“The best bet for drivers is to wait until after 7 p.m. on Friday or before noon on Saturday to help ensure valuable vacationing time isn’t spent in standstill traffic,” Townsend advises.

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