Memorial Day weekend travelers face highest gas prices in years

Memorial Day weekend travelers are expected to face some of the highest prices at the pump U.S. drivers have seen in years.

As of Thursday, the average price for a gallon of gas across the country clocked in at $2.96, according to Jeanette Casselano, a public relations director at AAA. That's the priciest gas has been in the buildup to Memorial Day weekend since 2014.

"Compared to an average of the last three Memorial Day weekends, pump prices are nearly 50 cents more expensive and climbing," Castellano said in a statement earlier this week.

Indeed, gas prices have so far jumped nearly 25 percent from where they sat a year ago, when the average national price per gallon was $2.37.

Oil prices dropped off considerably in late 2014 and throughout much of 2015 before bottoming out during the first few weeks of 2016. Since then, prices have maintained a slow and steady climb, and AAA warns drivers that prices are likely to tick higher in the days ahead. Paying at least $3 per gallon to fill up a tank could be the norm throughout much of the U.S.

Drivers in California, Hawaii, Washington, Alaska and Nevada can expect to see some of the highest prices at the pump through the week and over the weekend – as of Monday, drivers in all five states were paying an average of at least $3.32 per gallon of gas. The West Coast as a whole was the most expensive region of the country for fueling up early this week.

Meanwhile, those traveling to the South – particularly along the East Coast – will see the most affordable gas prices in the U.S. In Mississippi and Alabama, the average price for a gallon of gas on Monday sat at $2.61 and $2.62, respectively. But travelers throughout the South can still expect to pay more than they did in years past, as prices in South Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas and Oklahoma were all up at least 50 cents from where they sat just a year ago.

Still, soaring gas prices aren't expected to dampen many Americans' travel plans. Nearly 42 million people are expected to hit the road this weekend, according to AAA. That's up nearly 5 percent over the year and represents the largest Memorial Day weekend turnout the U.S. has seen in more than 12 years.

"The highest gas prices since 2014 won't keep travelers home this Memorial Day weekend," Bill Sutherland, senior vice president of travel and publishing at AAA, said in a statement earlier this month. "A strong economy and growing consumer confidence are giving Americans all the motivation they need to kick off what we expect to be a busy summer travel season with a Memorial Day getaway."