(May 14, 2018) – Memorial Day marks the unofficial start of summer, and Americans will kick off the season by traveling in near-record numbers. According to AAA, more than 41.5 million Americans will travel this Memorial Day weekend, nearly 5 percent more than last year and the most in more than a dozen years (2005).
Even as gas prices rise like outside temperatures, AAA still expects an additional 2 million people will take to planes, trains, automobiles and other modes of transportation. INRIX, a global transportation analytics company, expects travel delays on major roads could be 2-3 times longer than normal, with the busiest days being Thursday and Friday (May 24-25), as commuters mix with holiday travelers.
“Higher gas prices will not be enough to keep travelers home this Memorial Day weekend,” said Vicky Evans, Assistant Vice President, Travel Sales Development, AAA – The Auto Club Group. “A strong economy and growing consumer confidence are giving Americans all the motivation they need to kick off what we expect to be a busy summer travel season with a Memorial Day getaway.”
View the full Economic
and Holiday Travel Reports
from AAA and HIS By The Numbers: 2018 Memorial Day holiday travel forecast
Drivers Beware: Worst Times to Hit the Road
- Total Travelers: More than 41.5 million Americans will travel on Memorial Day Weekend, 5 percent more than last year.
- 2018 will mark the fourth consecutive year of overall travel volume growth.
- Travel volume has increased by 6 million since 2014 and 11 million since the 2009 recession-driven low.
- Automobiles: The vast majority of travelers – 36.6 million – will hit the road this Memorial Day, 4.7 percent more than last year.
- Planes: 3.1 million people will travel by air, a 6.8 percent increase and the fifth year of consecutive air travel volume increases.
- Trains, Buses, Rails and Cruise Ships: Travel across these sectors will increase by 2.4 percent to 1.8 million passengers.
- Gas prices for this holiday weekend will be the most expensive in four years.
For the 36.6 million Americans traveling by automobile, INRIX, in collaboration with AAA, predicts drivers will experience the greatest amount of congestion on Thursday, May 24 and Friday, May 25 – 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.
“Ranked the most congested country in world, U.S. drivers are all too familiar with sitting in traffic,” said Graham Cookson, Chief Economist and Head of Research, INRIX. “Drivers should expect congestion across a greater number of days than in previous years, with the getaway period starting on Wednesday, May 23. Our advice to drivers is to avoid peak commute times in major cities altogether – traveling late morning or early afternoon – or plan alternative routes.” Higher gas prices not deterring travelers
The 88 percent of travelers choosing to drive will pay the most expensive Memorial Day gas prices since 2014. Gas prices averaged $2.72 in April, an increase of 33 cents from last year, due to expensive crude oil, record gasoline demand and shrinking global supply. However, these higher prices are not keeping holiday travelers home, with automobile travel expected to increase for the fourth straight year, by nearly 5 percent over last Memorial Day.
Last year, gas prices on Memorial Day averaged $2.37 nationwide ($2.31 in Florida). Although holiday prices at the pump are projected to be the highest in four years, AAA does not expect gasoline to come anywhere near 2014-levels, where the national average was $3.66 ($3.62 in Florida) Lower hotel, airline and car rental costs make up for higher gas prices
While road trippers will pay higher prices at the gas pump this year, travelers can expect some relief in their wallets when paying for airfare, car rentals and most mid-range hotels. According to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index:
- Airfares are 7 percent lower than last Memorial Day, landing at an average price of $168 for a round-trip flight along the top 40 domestic routes.
- Hotels are also less expensive than last year. AAA Three Diamond hotels are 14 percent less than last year, with an average rate of $186 per night. Meanwhile, AAA Two Diamond hotels are 7 percent more expensive than last Memorial Day, with an average nightly cost of $151.
- Car rentals average $59 per day - the lowest rate in the past four years, and 11 percent cheaper than last year.
According to Hertz, a 40-year AAA partner, the busiest airport pick-up locations for travelers renting a car this Memorial Day are expected to be Orlando (MCO), Las Vegas (LAS), Atlanta (ATL), Los Angeles (LAX) and Kahului, HI (OGG). The busiest day for rental pick-ups is expected to be May 25, with an average rental length of nearly six days, as travelers look to take advantage of the long holiday weekend.
Travelers can book a flight, car rental or hotel at AAA.com
and on the free AAA mobile app
. They can also compare AAA Diamond rated properties at AAA.com/Diamonds
. Top Memorial Day travel destinations
Orlando again tops this year’s list of the most-visited Memorial Day destinations in the U.S., based on AAA advance travel bookings. Cruises to Alaska, originating in Seattle and Anchorage, as well as warm-weather destinations in Hawaii, Las Vegas, Phoenix and southern California top the list of travelers’ domestic destinations this summer.