Despite a rising national gas price average that is inching closer to the $3 per gallon mark, the vast majority of holiday travelers will drive to their destinations and can expect long traffic delays.
Nearly 43 million Americans will start their summers on a high note with a Memorial Day weekend getaway. This long holiday weekend, marking the unofficial start of summer vacation season, will see the second-highest travel volume on record since AAA began tracking holiday travel volumes dating back to 2000, trailing only the bar set in 2005. 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.
Despite a rising national gas price average that is inching closer to the $3 per gallon mark, the vast majority of holiday travelers 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.
“Americans are eagerly anticipating the start of summer, and expensive gas prices won’t keep them home this Memorial Day weekend,” said Mary Maguire, Director of Public and Legislative Affairs at AAA Northeast. “Consumer spending remains strong, helped by solid job and income growth. 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
Massachusetts: For the first time, one million Bay State residents are expected to travel, more than 908,000 by car.
Automobiles: The vast majority of travelers – 37.6 million – will hit the road, the most on record for the holiday and 3.5% more than last year.
Planes: 3.25 million people will take to the skies, 4.8% more than last year, second only to 2005.
Trains, Buses and Cruise Ships: Travel across these sectors will increase by 3.8% to 1.9 million passengers.
Drivers beware: Worst times to hit the road
For the 37.6 million Americans traveling by automobile, INRIX, in collaboration with AAA, predicts drivers will experience the greatest amount of congestion 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. 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.
“Drivers in the most congested metros should expect much worse conditions than normal,” said Trevor Reed, transportation analyst, INRIX. “Travelers should anticipate delays to start on Wednesday and continue through Memorial Day. Our advice to drivers is to avoid the morning and evening commuting times or plan alternate routes.”
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:
New York, New York
Las Vegas, Nevada
San Francisco, California
For those travelers planning an international vacation for Memorial Day, Europe is the destination of choice. Rome, London, Dublin and Paris are the most popular locales for international vacations this Memorial Day weekend, with Vancouver, Canada, rounding out the top five.
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 motorist 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 toolkit, and drinking water and snacks for all passengers.
AAA’s projections are based on economic forecasting and research by IHS Markit, a London-based business information provider. For the purposes of this forecast, the Memorial Day holiday travel period is defined as the five-day period from Thursday, May 23 to Monday, May 27.
AAA Northeast is a not-for-profit auto club with 66 offices in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, New Hampshire and New York, providing more than 5.7 million local AAA members with travel, insurance, finance, and auto-related services.