Memorial Day Weekend Travel Will Be Busiest In Two Years

It’s not good news once again at the pump as we head into the holiday weekend.  According to the American Automobile Association (AAA), the national average for a gallon of gasoline was $4.59 on May 23rd (up $1.56 more from a year ago) and all 50 states are above $4 per gallon.  AAA says the national average has either remained flat or risen every day since April 24. It set a new daily record on May 10 when it surpassed the previous record high of $4.33, set on March 11 of this year.

The continued high gas prices come as many Americans prepare to travel for the Memorial Day weekend. AAA expects Memorial Day weekend travel to be the busiest in two years. Its forecasters predict that 39.2 million people will travel 50 miles or more from home this Memorial Day weekend- marking the second-highest single-year increase in travelers since 2010 (2021 the highest). This brings travel volumes almost in line with pre-pandemic levels.

The continued high gas prices come as many Americans prepare to travel for the Memorial Day weekend. AAA expects Memorial Day weekend travel to be the busiest in two years. Its forecasters predict that 39.2 million people will travel 50 miles or more from home this Memorial Day weekend- marking the second-highest single-year increase in travelers since 2010 (2021 the highest). This brings travel volumes almost in line with pre-pandemic levels.

Road Trips


AAA predicts that 34.9 million people will hit the roads for the holiday weekend, up 4.6% over last year.  However, more travelers are opting for air and other modes of travel than in previous years. Share of car travel fell from 92.1% last year to 88.9% this year, which AAA says signals a slight indication that higher gas prices are impacting how people decide to travel. If you’re taking a road trip, don‘t forget to get your vehicle serviced beforehand. AAA says it expects to respond to over 425,000 calls for help over the Memorial Day holiday weekend.  It’s also important to take an emergency supply kit with you.

Air Travel

AAA reports that air travel continues to rebound, up 25% over last year, the second-largest increase since 2010. Air travel volume, which began to rally last Thanksgiving, will hit levels just shy of 2019 with 3 million people expected to take to the skies this Memorial Day weekend.  AAA says the percentage of people traveling by air will surpass 2019 levels with 7.7% of travelers choosing air travel as their preferred mode (it was 7.5% in 2019)

“Air travel has faced several challenges since the beginning of the year,” continued Twidale. “With the type of volume we anticipate, we continue to recommend the safety net of a travel agent and travel insurance. Both are a lifesaver if something unexpectedly derails your travel plans.”

Busiest Travel Times

Based on AAA booking data, Thursday is shaping up to be the busiest day for air travel during the Memorial Day travel period (May 26 – May 30) with Monday being the lightest. Thursday and Friday are anticipated to be peak traffic days.

AAA suggests reducing stress by:

  • Arriving at the airport at least two hours early for domestic flights and three hours for international.
  • Consider booking a flight during non-peak travel periods to cut down on wait times.
  • Hitting the road when there’s less traffic and allowing extra time when traveling to your destination.

Stress-Free Travel

AAA provides these tips on how to travel stress-free over the typically busy summer months:

Plan, plan and then plan some more.  The earlier you book the better to lock in the best rate and any discounts for pre-paying in full. Flights, car rentals, accommodations, tours, cruises and other activities are in high demand and availability is filling up. Prices are already skewing higher and with greater demand, finding last-minute deals is unlikely.

  • Air-AAA finds that the average lowest airfare is 6% more than last year coming in at $184/ticket with Saturday being the most expensive day to fly and Monday the least.
  • Hotels-Mid-range hotel rates have increased about 42%, with the average lowest nightly rates ranging between approximately $199 – $257/night for AAA Approved Hotels.
  • Car Rentals-Daily car rental rates have decreased 16% compared to last year, with the average lowest rate coming in at $100/day.

AAA also says flexibility is key for Memorial Day plans. Travel on off-peak times or days, pick a hidden gem closer to home or opt to stay at an all-inclusive resort with plenty of on-site activities and you’ll save on rental car and dining costs.

Remember Travel Essentials 

At the start of planning any trip, AAA reminds travelers not to forget the essentials – working with a travel agent and investigating travel insurance. A travel agent is an industry expert with many resources at their disposal to help plan and organize a trip that fits your individual needs and budget. They can easily look at a variety of options and scenarios to find savings not always available to the public. Plus if something goes wrong, your travel agent becomes your advocate – they will handle the logistics of changing or re-booking reservations. AAA also highly recommends travel insurance to cover unexpected delays or trip interruptions.  Check with your travel agent for details since they know you, your trip, your budget and your specific needs.

 

Top Destinations: Beaches and Big Cities

Here’s a look at the top Memorial Day Destinations according to AAA booking data:

2022 Top Memorial Day Destinations

U.S Destinations 

International Destinations 

Orlando, FL

Vancouver, Canada

Seattle, WA

Dublin, Ireland

Miami, FL

Paris, France

Las Vegas, NV

Rome, Italy

Anaheim, CA

London, England

New York, NY

Cancun, Mexico

Denver, CO

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Anchorage, AK

Barcelona, Spain

Boston, MA

Nassau, Bahamas

Honolulu, HI

Calgary, Canada

 

Busy Roads

INRIX predicts drivers will encounter the longest travel delays on Thursday and Friday afternoon this week. We’re talking double the travel times of a normal trip in some major U.S. metros.

“Even with a significant increase in gas prices, we expect a large jump in holiday driving compared to the last few years”, says Bob Pishue, Transportation Analyst, INRIX. “Drivers should expect congestion on major roadways around big cities and popular destinations. Knowing when and where congestion will build can help drivers avoid the stress of sitting in traffic.”

Worst Corridors and Times to Travel

Metro Area

Corridor

Peak Congestion

% Over Normal

Atlanta

I-85 S, Clairmont Rd to MLK Dr

5/26/22, 3:30-5:30pm

128%

Boston

I-93 S, Purchase St to MA-24

5/26/22, 2:30-4:30pm

110%

Chicago

I-290 E, IL-110 to Racine Ave

5/26/22, 3:30-5:30pm

131%

Detroit

I-96 W, 6 Mile Rd to Walled Lake

5/27/22, 3:00-5:00pm

65%

Houston

I-69 N, I-610 to I-10

5/27/22, 4:45-6:45pm

88%

Los Angeles

I-5 S, Colorado St to Florence Ave

5/27/22, 4:45-6:45pm

123%

New York

I-278 W, Long Island Express to 39th St

5/26/22, 3:15-5:15pm

161%

San Francisco

I-80 W, Gilman St to Civic Center

5/26/22, 5:45-7:45pm

105%

Seattle

I-5 S, WA-18 to WA-7

5/27/22, 5:00-7:00pm

112%

Washington DC

I-95 S, I-495 to VA-123

5/26/22, 3:45-5:45pm

77%

Source: INRIX

 

Daily Worst and Best Times to Travel

Day

Worst Time

Best Time

Thursday

1:00-8:00pm

Before 6:00am or After 9:00pm

Friday

12:00-7:00pm

Before 7:00am or After 9:00pm

Saturday

1:00-6:00pm

Before 10:00am

Sunday

1:00-4:00pm

Before 10:00am

Monday

1:00-4:00pm

Before 11:00am

Source: INRIX

 

Stay Safe and Be Patient 

While most COVID-19 restrictions have eased, AAA reminds us all to keep safety in mind for yourself and others. Also, with a busy travel season, it’s easy to lose patience but remember, everyone has a common goal – getting to their destination safely. For those looking to take a few extra precautions, AAA recommends:

  • Traveling with your bubble. This type of travel rose to popularity during the pandemic when many opted to vacation with people they were in close contact with. Consider taking a group trip to divvy up costs for things like activities and accommodations. If everyone is spread out, a travel agent can help manage the logistics.
  • When booking a place to stay, look for accommodations that prioritize cleanliness and have implemented additional housekeeping standards since the start of the pandemic. In 2021, AAA enhanced its housekeeping evaluation to include objective, scientific validation of the cleanliness of common surfaces throughout hotels. Hotels that meet these new standards are now recognized as Inspected Clean. Look for this designation or to browse all of AAA’s Diamond properties, click here.
  • Everything from airports to restaurants to attractions will be busier this Memorial Day, which means more people congregating. AAA advises travelers to follow CDC guidance, which at this time, is still recommending that people wear masks in indoor public transportation settings (airports, bus/train terminals, public transportation like subways/metros, airplanes, trains and buses).

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Photo Credit:  AAA.

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