AAA expects 39.2 million people will travel for the unofficial start of summer
The unofficial start to summer will be a busy one this year as AAA predicts 39.2 million people will travel 50 miles or more from home this Memorial Day weekend. This is an increase of 8.3% over 2021, bringing travel volumes almost in line with those in 2017. Air travel continues to rebound, up 25% over last year, the second-largest increase since 2010. With volumes closing in on pre-pandemic levels, AAA urges travelers to book now and remember flexibility is key this Memorial Day weekend.
“Memorial Day is always a good predictor of what’s to come for summer travel,” said Paula Twidale, senior vice president, AAA Travel. “Based on our projections, summer travel isn’t just heating up, it will be on fire. People are overdue for a vacation and they are looking to catch up on some much-needed R&R in the coming months.”
Air travel volume, which began to rally last Thanksgiving, will hit levels just shy of 2019 with 3 million people expected to take to the skies this Memorial Day weekend. In fact, the percentage of people traveling by air will surpass 2019 levels with 7.7% of travelers choosing air travel as their preferred mode (it was 7.5% in 2019).
“Air travel has faced several challenges since the beginning of the year,” continued Twidale. “With the type of volume we anticipate, we continue to recommend the safety net of a travel agent and travel insurance. Both are a lifesaver if something unexpectedly derails your travel plans.”
How to Travel Stress-Free This Summer
Memorial Day weekend is expected to be the busiest in two years, building on an upward trend that began earlier this spring. This year’s forecast marks the second-highest single-year increase in travelers since 2010 (2021 was the highest), bringing volumes almost in line with pre-pandemic levels. Despite historic gas prices, breaching the $4 mark in early March, 34.9 million people plan to travel by car, up 4.6% over last year. A greater portion of travelers are opting for air and other modes of travel than in previous years. Share of car travel fell from 92.1% last year to 88.9% this year, a slight indication that higher prices at the pump are having an impact on how people choose to travel this Memorial Day. Regardless of which mode they choose, travelers should prepare for a busy holiday weekend.
Plan, plan and then plan some more.
Book travel plans now if you haven’t already – the earlier the better to lock in the best rate and any discounts for pre-paying in full. Flights, car rentals, accommodations, tours, cruises and other activities are in high demand and availability is filling up. Prices are already skewing higher and with greater demand, finding last-minute deals is unlikely.
- Air -- AAA finds that the average lowest airfare is 6% more than last year coming in at $184/ticket with Saturday being the most expensive day to fly and Monday the least.
- Hotels -- Mid-range hotel rates have increased about 42%, with the average lowest nightly rates ranging between approximately $199 – $257/night for AAA Approved Hotels.
- Car Rentals -- Daily car rental rates have decreased 16% compared to last year, with the average lowest rate coming in at $100/day.
Remember, flexibility is important when considering Memorial Day travel plans – look to travel on off-peak times or days, pick a hidden gem closer to home or opt to stay at an all-inclusive resort with plenty of on-site activities. This limits the need for a rental car and paying a la carte for entertainment and dining. Based on AAA booking data, Thursday is shaping up to be the busiest day for air travel during the Memorial Day travel period (May 26 – May 30) with Monday being the lightest. For those hitting the road, Thursday and Friday are anticipated to be peak traffic days. AAA suggests reducing stress by:
- Arriving at the airport at least two hours early for domestic flights and three hours for international.
- Consider booking a flight during non-peak travel periods to cut down on wait times.
- Hitting the road when there’s less traffic and allowing extra time when traveling to your destination.
For the 34.9 million Americans hitting the road, it’s always advisable to get your vehicle road-trip ready with a full vehicle inspection. AAA expects to respond to over 425,000 calls for help over the Memorial Day holiday weekend. Get key components checked like the battery, fuel system, tires, brakes and fluid levels and make sure your vehicle’s emergency kit is fully stocked.
Big Cities and Beaches are Top Destinations
AAA booking data reveals that big cities and beaches are top destinations this Memorial Day, both domestically and abroad:
Roads Will Be Busy
INRIX predicts drivers will encounter the longest travel delays before the holiday weekend, particularly during the afternoons on Thursday, May 26 and Friday, May 27. Drivers in major U.S. metros could experience double the travel times compared to a normal trip.
“Even with a significant increase in gas prices, we expect a large jump in holiday driving compared to the last few years”, says Bob Pishue, Transportation Analyst, INRIX. “Drivers should expect congestion on major roadways around big cities and popular destinations. Knowing when and where congestion will build can help drivers avoid the stress of sitting in traffic.”
Remember – Stay Safe and Patient
While most COVID-19 restrictions have eased, it’s important to keep safety in mind for yourself and others. Also, with a busy travel season, it’s easy to lose patience but remember, everyone has a common goal – getting to their destination safely.
Copyright 2022 AAA. All rights reserved. From https://newsroom.aaa.com. By Ellen Edmonds.