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Americans took to the beaches and open road in massive numbers on Friday to kick off one last weekend of summer fun.
Nearly 35 million sun-seekers and barbecue fans were expected to hit the highways this weekend, according to the American Automobile Association — the most for the holiday since the recession hit in 2008. That number was helped along by slightly lower average gas prices compared to last year.
At Chicago’s O’Hare and Midway International Airports, officials were ready for an estimated 1.2 million travelers over the five-day holiday weekend. Both airports expected to see about a five percent uptick in passengers from 2013.
It’s all a sign Americans may be loosening the purse strings — and that’s been good news for merchants, too.
“Consumer spending continues to outpace disposable income, indicating that Americans are comfortable using their credit cards to take one last summer vacation,” said AAA Chief Operating Officer Marshall L. Doney.
New Jersey beach towns that were battered by Hurricane Sandy two years ago saw a steady increase in business this summer, with some local business owners saying they saw profits jump up to 30 percent over last year.
“This summer was great,” Matt Riccelli, who manages a seaside restaurant in Manasquan, New Jersey, told the Associated Press. “We’re all sad to see it end.”
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--- NBC News Staff and the Associated Press