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Nearly 43 Million Americans Plan to Travel this Memorial Day – second-highest travel volume on record since 2000

Almost 43 million Americans will say hello to summer by traveling 50 miles or more away from home this Memorial Day. The long holiday weekend, marking the unofficial start of summer vacation season, will see the second-highest travel volume on record since AAA began tracking holiday travel volumes dating back to 2000, trailing only the bar set in 2005. Overall, an additional 1.5 million more people will take to the nation’s roads, rails and runways compared with last year, a 3.6 percent increase. The Memorial Day holiday travel period is defined as Thursday, May 23 to Monday, May 27.

“Americans are eagerly anticipating the start of summer, and current gas prices won’t keep them home this Memorial Day weekend,” said Tracy Noble, manager of Public and Government Affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “Consumer spending remains strong, helped by solid job and income growth. Families continue to prioritize spending their disposable incomes on travel, and near-record numbers of them are looking forward to doing just that for Memorial Day.”

2019 Projected Memorial Day Holiday Travelers
National

*U.S. Census Bureau/IHS Global Insight (v2018)

By the Numbers: 2019 Memorial Day Holiday Travel Forecast

  • Automobiles: The vast majority of travelers – 37.6 million – will hit the road, the most on record for the holiday and 3.5 percent more than last year.
  • Planes: 3.25 million people will take to the skies, 4.8 percent more than last year, second only to 2005.
  • Trains, Buses and Cruise Ships: Travel across these sectors will increase by 3.8 percent to 1.9 million passengers.

Higher gas prices won’t keep holiday travelers home

Despite a national gas price average that has inched closer to the $3 per gallon mark, the vast majority of holiday travelers will drive to their destinations. For these motorists, INRIX, a global transportation analytics company, expects travel delays on major roads could be more than three times longer than normal during evening commutes.
Gas prices have increased by more than 30 cents in the last two months with the national average approaching $3 per gallon ($2.86 on May 15, 2019), which is relatively on par with prices this time last year ($2.89 on May 15, 2018). However, 88 percent of travelers will choose to drive to their Memorial Day destinations this year, the most on record.

“When gas prices are higher, travelers may shorten the distance of a road trip, eat out less or look for free activities,” said Noble. “But, overall, prices are very similar to this time last year and, like then, they aren’t letting that deter them from taking summer road trips.”

Travelers to see relief in lower hotel and car rental costs

While road trippers are paying more to fill up their vehicles at the gas pump, some of that additional expense can be made up with lower prices on car rentals and hotels this Memorial Day. According to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index:

  • Car rental prices have declined 7 percent compared with last year, with an average daily rate of $55.
  • Mid-range hotels are between 2 percent and 3 percent cheaper this year, with an average nightly rate of $146 and $183, respectively, for AAA Two and Three Diamond Rated properties.
  • Airfares are holding steady compared with last Memorial Day, for an average roundtrip price of $171.

Top Memorial Day travel destinations:

  1. Orlando, Florida
  2. New York, New York
  3. Las Vegas, Nevada
  4. Honolulu, Hawaii
  5. Anaheim, California
  6. Seattle, Washington
  7. Phoenix, Arizona
  8. Anchorage, Alaska
  9. Tampa, Florida
  10. San Francisco, California

Worst times to hit the road

For the 37.6 million Americans traveling by automobile, INRIX, in collaboration with AAA, predicts drivers will experience the greatest amount of congestion on Thursday, May 23 and Friday, May 24 in the late afternoon as commuters leave work early and mix with holiday travelers. Several major U.S. metros could experience double the travel times compared to a normal trip, while New Yorkers and Washington, D.C., could see three times the delay.

“Drivers in the most congested metros should expect much worse conditions than normal,” said Trevor Reed, transportation analyst, INRIX. “Travelers should anticipate delays to start on Wednesday and continue through Memorial Day. Our advice to drivers is to avoid the morning and evening commuting times or plan alternate routes.”

AAA to rescue more than 353,000 motorists
AAA expects to be called on to rescue more than 353,000 motorists at the roadside this Memorial Day weekend. Dead batteries, flat tires and lockouts will be the leading reasons AAA members will experience car trouble.

AAA recommends motorist take their vehicles to a trusted repair facility to perform any needed maintenance before heading out on a road trip. Be prepared for emergencies with a mobile phone and car charger, a flashlight with extra batteries, a first-aid kit, a basic toolkit, and drinking water and snacks for all passengers.

 

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