Record-Breaking Number of Road Trips Projected For Memorial Day Weekend

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Buckle up. AAA expects a major weekend for air travel and especially road trips this Memorial Day.

A forecast from AAA estimates Memorial Day weekend travel will be up from last year with boosts in travelers across modes of transportation — but still shy of the all-time record set in 2005.

AAA expects almost 44 million travelers from Thursday, May 23, to Monday, May 27. That marks one million more travelers than in 2019, the year before the pandemic. 

“We’re going to start seeing heavy loads for the holiday weekend, as well as the summertime,” said Paula Twidale, AAA’s SVP of travel.

How Travelers Arrive

This year will be big for road trips: AAA projects 38.4 million people will travel by car, up 1.9% from the 2019 holiday weekend and the highest number since AAA started tracking in 2000. 

“I think distance, time, availability, and cost all play into the decision-making process. So we’re not surprised that the road trips are up 4% from last year,” Twidale said. She added road trips can offer families more flexibility.

Drivers will need to consider traffic when making their road trip plans. Some routes could take nearly 90% longer than is typical, according to Bob Pishue, an analyst at the transportation data firm INRIX. Gainesville to Tampa could take 88% longer. Other busier routes include Los Angeles to Bakersfield and Galveston to Houston.

Despite two global conflicts in oil-producing regions, this year’s gas prices are nearly in line with last year’s. The prices have stayed relatively steady in recent weeks, as well. 

“I don’t think that’s a deterrent at all,” Twidale said about the gas prices.

In terms of inflation more broadly, Twidale also doesn’t see a concern.

“I think they [travelers] are choosing where they want to go and how they want to spend those funds a little differently, but it’s not precluding them or preventing them from actually traveling.”

AAA anticipates that 3.51 million will be traveling via plane — a 9% increase from 2019, versus a 4.8% increase from last year. While slightly higher, flight prices also resemble those in 2023.

Other modes of transportation — buses, trains, and cruises — could be up 5.6% from last year. Cruise ports for Alaska itineraries are among the hotspots for travelers this year.

Where Travelers Go

The list of popular destinations hasn’t changed much. AAA booking data shows theme park and entertainment venues, like Orlando and Las Vegas, remain in vogue.

“Certainly sun-and-fun destinations, like in Florida with theme parks, are also always high on the list,” Twidale said. Fort Lauderdale, Southern California, and Miami were top picks, too.

More urban hubs draw visitors, as well. New York, Denver, and Boston are also traveler favorites. Those going abroad often opted for European cities.

“Internationally, it stays pretty consistent,” Twidale said. “London, Paris, Dublin, Athens… those have all been on the top of the list for a few years now. So I just think they’re just destination hotspots, and there’s always a desire to go. And people are still doing that, whether it be short term or long term.”

Beyond Memorial Day weekend, Asia — especially Japan — is making a comeback this year.

“I think people are feeling comfortable going further out, and we’re seeing some of those destinations that took longer to recover come back,” Twidale said.

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