Memorial Day weekend travel: Over 42M Americans expected to take trips this summer
37.1M people are expected to take a road trip over Memorial Day weekend
AAA is estimating that travel this summer "could be one for the record books," with air travel alone exceeding pre-pandemic levels over Memorial Day weekend.
During the three-day Memorial Day holiday weekend – the unofficial start to the summer travel season in the U.S. – more than 42 million Americans are planning to travel at least 50 miles away from home, according to the automobile club's summer forecast.
That figure is up 7% from 2022 and signals "what’s to come in the months ahead," according to AAA.
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Nearly 3.4 million travelers are expected to fly, up 11% compared to 2022. However, there will be 170,000 more travelers flying over the weekend compared with 2019 despite higher airfare costs.
AAA projects that it will be the third-busiest Memorial Day weekend since 2000, the year it started tracking the data. Airports will be the busiest they have been since 2005, AAA added.
"More Americans are planning trips and booking them earlier, despite inflation," Paula Twidale, senior vice president of AAA Travel, said. "This summer travel season could be one for the record books, especially at airports."
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About 37.1 million Americans are taking road trips this year, up 6% from 2022, although it's still shy of pre-pandemic levels by about 500,000 travelers.
As of Monday, the national average for a gallon of regular gasoline is $3.53, nearly a dollar cheaper than it was at the same time a year ago, according to AAA data.
With lower gas prices and an uptick in travelers on the road compared with a year ago, Bob Pishue, transportation analyst at INRIX, warned that there will be long delays, "especially in and around major metros as commuters mix with Memorial Day travelers."
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Pishue said travelers should avoid driving during peak hours and use alternative routes.
The worst time to travel is estimated to be from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. local time on Friday, May 26. However, "minimal traffic impact" is expected throughout the following Saturday and Sunday, according to the forecast.