According to the annual AAA Memorial Day Travel Forecast, nearly 43 million Americans will start their summers with a Memorial Day weekend getaway.
This long holiday weekend, marking the unofficial start of summer travel season, will see the second-highest travel volume on record since AAA began tracking holiday travel volumes dating back to 2000.
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 nationwide.
“Following a long winter, Americans are excited to take advantage of a strong economy with a well-deserved vacation,” says Sally McCorrison, director of travel services, AAA East Central, East Penn Region.
“Summer vacations are the best way to create lifelong memories with families and friends.”
Although the national average price for gasoline is inching closer to the $3 per gallon mark, the vast majority of holiday travelers report they 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.
Worst times to travel
For the 37.6 million Americans traveling by automobile, INRIX, in collaboration with AAA, predicts drivers will experience the greatest amount of congestion on May 23 and 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.
Higher gas prices won’t keep holiday travelers home
Gas prices have increased by more than 30 cents in the last two months with the national average approaching $3 per gallon ($2.86 today) which is relatively on par with prices this time last year ($2.89). However, 88 percent of travelers will choose to drive to their Memorial Day destinations this year, the most on record. AAA has found that when gas prices are higher, travelers may shorten the distance of a road trip, eat out less or look for free activities. Overall, prices are very similar to this time last year and, like then, travelers aren’t letting that deter them from taking summer road trips.
Travelers to see relief in lower hotel, 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 nationally compared with last year, with an average daily rate of $55. Midrange 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.
Top Memorial Day travel destinations
Orlando, New York City and Las Vegas can expect an influx of travelers for the holiday.
These are the top destinations in this region this Memorial Day weekend, based on advance AAA Travel bookings: Orlando, Fla., Las Vegas, Nev., New York City, N.Y., South Carolina beaches, Tampa, Fla., Miami, Fla., Chicago, Ill., Niagara Falls, Virginia Beach and Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
According to Hertz, a more than 40-year AAA partner, the busiest airport pickup locations for travelers renting a car this Memorial Day are expected to be Orlando (MCO), Los Angeles (LAX), Denver (DEN), Las Vegas (LAS), and San Francisco (SFO).
The busiest day for rental pickups is expected to be May 24, with an average rental length of nearly five days, as travelers look to take advantage of the long holiday weekend.
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 motorists 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 tool kit, and drinking water and snacks for all passengers.
Editor’s note: AAA East Central is a not-for-profit association with 80 local offices in Kentucky, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia serving 2.7 million members.