July 14, 2024

Nearly 44 mln passengers to travel for miles on Memorial Day weekend

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According to AAA projections, more than 43.8 million travellers will head 50 miles or more from home over the Memorial Day holiday travel period from Thursday, May 23 to Monday, May 27.

This year’s projected total number of travellers is a 4% increase over last year and comes close to matching 2005’s record of 44 million Memorial Day travellers.

“We haven’t seen Memorial Day weekend travel numbers like these in almost 20 years,” said Lori Weaver Hawkins, public affairs manager for AAA Blue Grass.

“AAA is projecting an additional 1 million travelers this holiday weekend compared to 2019, which not only means we’re exceeding pre-pandemic levels but also signals a very busy summer travel season ahead.”

Road trips are expected to set a record.

AAA projects 38.4 million people will travel by car over Memorial Day weekend, the highest number for that holiday since AAA began tracking in 2000.

The number of drivers this year is up 4% compared to last year and 1.9% higher than in 2019.

Travelling by car is appealing for many people because of the convenience and flexibility it provides.

AAA car rental partner Hertz says Orlando, Denver, Atlanta, Boston and Las Vegas are the cities displaying the highest rental demand, with the busiest pick-up days projected to be Thursday, May 23 and Friday, May 24.

This Memorial Day weekend drivers can expect similar gas prices as last year when the national average was roughly $3.57.

Pump prices rose this spring but have held somewhat steady in recent weeks. Prices may creep higher as the summer driving season gets underway.

The wildcard remains the cost of oil, and unlike last year, there are now two wars – in the Middle East and Ukraine – that could roil the oil market.

Airports are bracing for a spike in travelers. AAA expects 3.51 million air travellers this holiday weekend, an increase of 4.8% over last year and 9% jump compared to 2019.

This will be the most crowded Memorial Day weekend at airports since 2005, when 3.64 million flew for the holiday as the travel industry finally rebounded post 9/11.

This Memorial Day weekend, air ticket prices are comparable to last year. AAA booking data shows a 1% to 2% increase in prices for domestic flights.

Several factors play into how much travelers pay for airfare, including destination, number of stops, and fare class.

For example, passengers who book nonstop flights with seat selection and carry-on bags included will likely pay more than those who select basic economy with a layover.

Nearly two million people may travel by other modes of transportation, including buses, cruises, and trains.

AAA projects 1.9 million people will take these other modes of transportation, an increase of 5.6% compared to last year.

Best/Worst Times to Drive and Peak Congestion

INRIX, a provider of transportation data and insights, says drivers leaving Thursday or Friday should hit the road early to avoid mixing with commuters.

Travellers going back home on Sunday or Monday should avoid the afternoon hours when return trips will peak.

“Travel times are expected to be up to 90% longer than normal. Travellers should stay up to date on traffic apps, 511 services, and local news stations to avoid sitting in traffic longer than necessary,” said Bob Pishue, transportation analyst at INRIX.

This Memorial Day weekend, travelers are seeking theme parks and entertainment venues in Orlando, New York, Las Vegas, and Southern California. Seattle, Anchorage, and Vancouver rank high because of the popularity of Alaska cruises this time of year.

Florida beaches and cruise ports will also be packed.

European cities dominate the international list. The top 10 domestic and international destinations below are based on AAA booking data.

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