Stats: Memorial Day Travel Weekend to Be Second-busiest Ever

This Memorial Day weekend is set to be the second-busiest since tracking began in 2000, according to the latest Memorial Day travel forecast from AAA. This year nearly 43 million Americans will travel over the long holiday weekend, marking the second-highest travel volume since AAA began keeping records in 2000. Only 2005 was busier. 

Overall, an additional 1.5 million people will take a Memorial Day trip this year, up 3.6 percent over last year. Despite gas prices rising to near the $3 per gallon mark, the vast majority of travelers will go by road this year, AAA said. Citing an analysis by global transportation analytics company INRIX, AAA says that travel delays on major roads could be more than three times longer than normal during evening commutes. 

“Consumer spending remains strong, helped by solid job and income growth,” said Paula Twidale, vice president, AAA Travel, in a written statement. “Families continue to prioritize spending their disposable incomes on travel, and near-record numbers of them are looking forward to doing just that for Memorial Day.”

By the numbers: 2019 Memorial Day holiday travel forecast

  • Automobiles: The vast majority of travelers – 37.6 million – will hit the road, the most on record for the holiday and 3.5 percent more than last year.
  • Planes: 3.25 million people will take to the skies, 4.8 percent more than last year, second only to 2005.
  • Trains, Buses and Cruise Ships: Travel across these sectors will increase by 3.8 percent to 1.9 million passengers.

For those hitting the road, INRIX and AAA predicts the worst times to drive will be on Thursday, May 23 and Friday, May 24 in the late afternoon as commuters leave work early and mix with holiday travelers. Several major U.S. metropolitan areas could see double the travel times as compared to normal, while those in New York and Washington, DC, could see three times the delay. 

Gas prices have increased by more than 30 cents in the last two months with the national average approaching $3 per gallon ($2.86 on May 14, 2019), which is relatively on par with prices this time last year ($2.87 on May 14, 2018), AAA said. However, 88 percent of travelers will choose to drive to their Memorial Day destinations this year, the most on record.

At the same time, hotel and car rental costs are set to fall this year. According to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, car rental prices have declined 7 percent compared with last year, with an average daily rate of $55. Mid-range 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. Meanwhile, airfares are holding steady compared with last Memorial Day, for an average roundtrip price of $171.

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 the U.S. this Memorial Day weekend, based on advance AAA Travel bookings:

  1. Orlando, Florida
  2. New York, New York
  3. Las Vegas, Nevada
  4. Honolulu, Hawaii
  5. Anaheim, California
  6. Seattle, Washington
  7. Phoenix, Arizona
  8. Anchorage, Alaska
  9. Tampa, Florida
  10. San Francisco, California

Europe is the top region for those traveling internationally this holiday weekend, with Rome, London, Dublin and Paris accounting for the top four destinations. Vancouver, Canada, is number five. 

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