May 13, 2021

AAA: 60% More Americans Expected to Travel this Memorial Day; Will Gas Shortages Linger?

Traffic across the country should be a lot heavier this Memorial Day holiday than it was last year, according to the American Automobile Association.

AAA expects "a significant rebound" in the number of Americans traveling for the holiday weekend thanks to a slowing spread of the coronavirus.

More than 37 million Americans are expected to travel 50 miles or more from home this year, an increase of 60% from last year, when 23 million traveled during the early stages of the pandemic, according to the nonprofit auto club.

“As more people get the COVID-19 vaccine and consumer confidence grows, Americans are demonstrating a strong desire to travel this Memorial Day,” Paula Twidale, senior vice president for AAA, said in a news release.

“This pent-up demand will result in a significant increase in Memorial Day travel, which is a strong indicator for summer, though we must all remember to continue taking important safety precautions," she continued.

Still, AAA notes, this year's expected travel level would mark a 13% drop from 2019, when some 43 million traveled. Memorial Day is Monday, May 31. AAA includes Thursday through Monday in its travel projections.

Across the country, the top five destinations for road trips are Las Vegas, Orlando, Florida; Myrtle Beach, South Carolina; Denver and Nashville, Tennessee, according to AAA.

AAA said travel levels could still fluctuate based on news around COVID-19.

Will gas shortages linger through holiday weekend?

The shutdown of the Colonial Pipeline, which delivers about 45% of the fuel to the East Coast, is expected to drive up gasoline prices and tighten supply, but it's "difficult to say with certainty at this point" whether it will affect holiday travel, Albert said Tuesday morning.

If most pipeline service is restored by the end of the week, as the company expects, "there should be enough time to replenish supply and avoid significant holiday disruptions," Lloyd Albert, senior vice president of public and government affairs at AAA Northeast, said in a news release.

The pipeline went back online late Wednesday afternoon, though it is not expected to be back at full capacity until the end of the week. It could take several days for the supply chain to catch up.

Albert noted some factors that have eased the impact of the shutdown: Several spurs off the main Colonial trunk line have reopened; Trucks, ships and barges are being deployed to transport fuel.

According to AAA, travelers should keep in mind that some local and state COVID-19 travel restrictions remain in place. Travelers can refer to AAA’s COVID-19 Travel Restrictions Map and for the latest information to help plan their trip.

Copyright 2021 USA TODAY. All rights reserved. From By Jack Perry, The Providence Journal.

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