AAA anticipates that 43.8 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more during the Memorial Day holiday period, marking a 4% increase over last year and nearing the record high of 44 million set in 2005.

Paula Twidale, Senior Vice President of AAA Travel, noted, “It’s been nearly two decades since we’ve seen Memorial Day travel figures this high. We’re expecting an additional one million travelers compared to 2019, surpassing pre-pandemic levels and hinting at a bustling summer travel season ahead.”

Key Travel Insights:

  • Road Trips: A record 38.4 million people are projected to travel by car, the most since AAA began tracking in 2000. This represents a 4% increase from last year and a 1.9% rise over 2019, underscoring the ongoing appeal of car travel for its convenience and flexibility. Cities like Orlando, Denver, Atlanta, Boston, and Las Vegas are seeing the highest demand for rental cars, with the busiest pick-up days expected to be May 23 and May 24.
  • Gas Prices: Drivers will encounter gas prices similar to last year’s national average of around $3.57 per gallon. While prices have stabilized recently, they could rise with the onset of summer. Current geopolitical tensions in the Middle East and Ukraine could further influence oil prices.
  • Air Travel: Airports are preparing for a significant surge in travelers, with 3.51 million expected to fly, up 4.8% from last year and 9% from 2019. This could lead to the busiest Memorial Day weekend at airports since 2005. Airfare prices are showing a modest increase of 1% to 2% for domestic flights compared to last year.
  • Alternative Transportation: Nearly two million travelers are opting for other transportation modes like buses, cruises, and trains, a 5.6% increase from last year. This sector is recovering to pre-pandemic levels, driven by the rising demand for holiday getaways.

Travel Timing Advice:

INRIX advises that to avoid congestion, travelers should depart early on Thursday or Friday and avoid returning during peak afternoon hours on Sunday or Monday. Travel times could be up to 90% longer than usual. Monitoring traffic apps, 511 services, and local news can help travelers minimize delays.

Optimal Travel Windows:

  • Thursday, May 23: Best before 11 AM or after 7 PM; worst from 12:00 – 6:00 PM
  • Friday, May 24: Best before 11 AM or after 8 PM; worst from 12:00 – 7:00 PM
  • Saturday, May 25: Best before 1 PM or after 6 PM; worst from 2:00 – 5:00 PM
  • Sunday, May 26: Best before 1 PM; worst from 3:00 – 7:00 PM
  • Monday, May 27: Best after 7 PM; worst from 3:00 – 7:00 PM