AAA explains how to beat Memorial Day weekend travel: 'Be patient'

Memorial Day weekend expected to be third-busiest for travel since 2000, says AAA

As Americans get ready to head out the door for the unofficial start of summer, AAA wants to prepare travelers for what could be the busiest Memorial Day weekend in years.

"Know that this summer is going to be busier than last summer, that we haven't seen any decrease in the number of people traveling," AAA media relations manager Aixa Diaz told Fox News Digital on Tuesday.

"If anything, after 2020 when everything went way down, we're just seeing it go up, go up in all areas: driving, flying cruises, buses, trains," she continued. "Everybody's feeling more comfortable."

This week, the national travel association released its annual Memorial Day weekend forecast which projects 42.3 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home, a 7% increase from last year.


While the U.S. will see more drivers on the road, Diaz pointed out that "the most impressive number" is coming from air travel.

US flag on Coney Island beach

According to AAA’s Aixa Diaz, "the most impressive number" in terms of Memorial Day weekend travel will come from airports. (Getty Images)

"When we look at the past 20 years, back in 2005 was a very busy travel year. That was post-9/11, pre-recession," Diaz explained. "When we compare 2023 to 2005, we could be looking at the second-busiest Memorial Day holiday travel for air and third-busiest Memorial Day holiday travel overall, including cars."

Nearly 3.4 million travelers are expected to hit the skies that holiday weekend – up 11% year-over-year – and 37.1 million will hit the road to get to their destination, which is a 6% increase from 2022.

The high travel demand comes partly from pent-up, post-pandemic energy, but also a strong desire to go international, the AAA manager noted. And decades-high inflation reportedly isn’t a travel concern either.

"They're wanting to go travel and be with friends, be with family and make up for that lost time that it was during the pandemic," Diaz said. "And what we're seeing is that we're rebounding nicely and in some areas like air travel, we're expecting to exceed pre-pandemic numbers.

Airline passengers must be prepared for "packed" airports, as the AAA representative cautioned having a Plan B or C in place for any potential turbulence.

"If you haven't already booked summer travel, AAA recommends, do it right now. Don't wait any longer," she advised. "With summer thunderstorms, possibly hurricane season as we enter that, you're going to see delays and cancellations. We're also still seeing staff shortages in airlines and at air traffic control stations. So prepare that there might be delays and cancellations so arrive as early as possible."

Those driving on Memorial weekend are encouraged to leave as early in the morning as possible. Diaz claimed "the worst time" to be on the road is Friday between 3 and 6 p.m., and returning home on Monday from noon to 3 p.m.

"Perhaps if you have a flexible work schedule and you're a hybrid employee, maybe you work from your location on that Tuesday, come back on Wednesday," the AAA manager suggested. "Play around with your schedule a little bit because we do anticipate the metro areas, and those surrounding suburbs, are going to be packed with traffic as people want to get out for the unofficial start of summer."

AAA says cities like Orlando, New York City and Las Vegas are top destinations for the Memorial holiday weekend. During your endeavors, Diaz reminded travelers to be kind and patient, and drivers be slow and alert.


"You've got to be patient, be kind to people," the AAA media relations manager said.

"More people on the roads obviously means more crashes and more people out there in the summertime. Also, we see more young drivers, people who don't normally drive," Diaz added. "AAA always reminds you to slow down and move over. That means if you see flashing lights on the side of the road, whether it's someone providing a tow for a driver, changing a flat tire, law enforcement, medical units, slow down or move over a lane and give them some room."