VIRGINIA BEACH — More Americans will be traveling this Memorial Day weekend, with AAA projecting 42.3 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home, a 7% increase over 2022.
“This is expected to be the third busiest Memorial Day weekend since 2000, when AAA started tracking holiday travel,” said Paula Twidale, Senior Vice President of AAA Travel. “More Americans are planning trips and booking them earlier, despite inflation. This summer travel season could be one for the record books, especially at airports.”
According to statistics shared by AAA, nearly 3.4 million travelers are expected to fly this Memorial Day weekend, an increase of 11% over last year and in excess of pre-pandemic levels. Despite high ticket prices, 170,000 more passengers — or 5.4% more than in 2019 — could make for the busiest at airports since 2005.
Road trips are also up up 6% over last year, with 37.1 million Americans projected to drive to their destinations, an increase of more than 2 million, but shy of pre-pandemic numbers. Gas prices are lower this holiday, AAA notes, compared to last year when the national average was more than $4 a gallon.
More people — 1.85 million— are also expected to take other modes of transportation, like buses and trains, an increase of 20.6% over 2022.
Best/Worst Times to Travel and Peak Congestion by Metro
According to AAA, INRIX, a provider of transportation data and insights, expects Friday, May 26 to be the busiest day on the roads during the long Memorial Day weekend. The best times to travel by car are in the morning or evening after 6 p.m., it said, with the lightest traffic days on Saturday and Sunday. Major metro areas will likely see travel times double compared to normal.
“With lower fuel prices and more travelers on the road compared to last year, drivers should expect long delays this holiday weekend, especially in and around major metros as commuters mix with Memorial Day travelers,” said Bob Pishue, transportation analyst at INRIX. “Knowing when and where congestion will build can help drivers avoid the stress of sitting in traffic. Our advice is to avoid driving during peak hours or use alternative routes.”
AAA booking data shows Orlando, New York City, and Las Vegas as the top domestic destinations. Cruise port cities in Florida and Alaska, as well as Seattle, are also high on the list. AAA noted there has been a 50% increase in domestic cruise bookings compared to last year.
“We are seeing a demand for iconic cities, international vacation packages, and cruises with included amenities that provide more value for the price,” Twidale added.
Travelers are paying more for Memorial Day trips this year, AAA said, citing the rising cost of airline tickets. AAA booking data shows a 40% increase in airfare to this year’s top destinations.
International travel bookings are 250% higher this holiday weekend than 2022. European cities proving the most popular, and international car rentals are up more than 80%, with AAA reporting International Driving Permits have almost doubled. It added the passport courier service RushMyPassport is also seeing an unprecedented number of applications for expedited passport and visa services.