Increase in Travel Expected for Memorial Day Weekend

Memorial Day travel projections signal a return to pre-pandemic levels and set the stage for a bustling summer travel season.


AAA is projecting a significant surge in travel for the Memorial Day holiday period, with 43.8 million Americans expected to journey 50 miles or more from home over the five-day period from May 23-27. This figure represents a 4% increase over last year and is nearing the record set in 2005, when 44 million travelers hit the road.

“We haven’t seen Memorial Day weekend travel numbers like these in almost 20 years,” said Paula Twidale, senior vice president of AAA Travel. “We’re 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 Leading the Charge

Road trips are anticipated to reach record levels, with 38.4 million people expected to travel by car. This marks the highest number for Memorial Day weekend road travel 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. The convenience and flexibility of car travel make it a popular choice for many.

Hertz, AAA’s car rental partner, indicated that Orlando, Denver, Atlanta, Boston and Las Vegas are experiencing the highest rental demand. The busiest pick-up days are projected to be May 23 and May 24.

Gas prices this Memorial Day weekend are expected to be similar to last year, with the national average around $3.57. Although prices have risen this spring, they have remained relatively steady in recent weeks. However, the cost of oil remains a wildcard, influenced by ongoing conflicts in the Middle East and Ukraine.

Air Travel on the Rise

Airports are preparing for a significant increase in travelers, with 3.51 million people expected to fly over the holiday weekend. This marks a 4.8% increase over last year and a 9% jump compared to 2019, making it the busiest Memorial Day weekend at airports since 2005.

Air ticket prices are comparable to last year, with AAA booking data showing a 1% to 2% increase in prices for domestic flights. Factors influencing airfare costs include destination, number of stops and fare class. Passengers opting for nonstop flights with seat selection and carry-on bags included will likely pay more than those choosing basic economy with layovers.

Alternative Modes of Transportation

Nearly 2 million people are expected to travel by other modes of transportation, including buses, cruises and trains. AAA projects 1.9 million people will take these alternative modes, a 5.6% increase compared to last year.

“This category took the biggest hit during the pandemic, with fewer people taking public transportation or not cruising at all,” Twidale said. “Now -- five years later -- we’re back to 2019 numbers. Travel demand has been soaring, and long holiday weekends create the perfect windows for getaways.”

Looking Ahead

This year’s Memorial Day travel projections not only signal a return to pre-pandemic levels but also set the stage for a bustling summer travel season. Whether by car, plane or other means, Americans are eager to hit the road and take advantage of the long holiday weekend.

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