U.S. Memorial Day Travel Primed to be a Near Record

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Several major U.S. metro areas could experience double the travel times compared to a normal trip. New Yorkers could see three times the delay.

Not everyone will be in front of you in heavy traffic, but Memorial Day will see Americans traveling in near-record numbers. More than 41.5 million Americans will travel this Memorial Day weekend, ~5% more than last year and the most in more than a dozen years. Close to 2 million additional people will board planes, trains, automobiles and other transportation types, according to AAA.

INRIX, an analytics company, expects travel delays on major roads could be up to three times longer than normal, with the busiest days being Thursday and Friday (May 24-25) as commuters mix with holiday travelers.

“The highest gas prices since 2014 won’t keep travelers home this Memorial Day weekend,” claimed Bill Sutherland, senior vice president, AAA Travel and Publishing. “A strong economy and growing consumer confidence are giving Americans all the motivation they need to kick off what we expect to be a busy summer travel season with a Memorial Day getaway.”

2018 Memorial Day Travel Forecast

  • Automobiles: Many travelers – 36.6 million – will drive this Memorial Day, 4.7% more than last year.
  • Planes: 3.1 million people will travel by air, a 6.8% increase and the fifth year of consecutive air travel volume increases.
  • Trains, Buses and Cruise Ships: Travel will increase by 2.4% to 1.8 million passengers.

Worst Times on the Road

For the 36.6 million Americans traveling by automobile, INRIX and AAA, predicts drivers will experience the greatest amount of congestion on Thursday, May 24 and Friday, May 25 – in the late afternoon as commuters leave work early and mix with holiday travelers. Several major U.S. metro areas could experience double the travel times compared to a normal trip. New Yorkers could see three times the delay.

“Ranked the most congested country in world, U.S. drivers are all too familiar with sitting in traffic,” said Graham Cookson, Chief Economist and Head of Research, INRIX. “Drivers should expect congestion across a greater number of days than in previous years, with the getaway period starting on Wednesday, May 23. Our advice to drivers is to avoid peak commute times in major cities altogether – traveling late morning or early afternoon – or plan alternative routes.”

Higher Gas Prices

The 88% of travelers choosing to drive will pay the most expensive Memorial Day gas prices since 2014. Gas prices averaged $2.72 in April, an increase of 33 cents from last year, due to expensive crude oil, record gasoline demand and shrinking global supply. However, these higher prices are not keeping holiday travelers home, with automobile travel expected to increase for the fourth straight year, by nearly 5% over last Memorial Day.

Lower Hotel, Airline, Car Rental  Costs

Travelers can expect some cuts for airfare, car rentals and most mid-range hotels. According to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, airfares are 7% lower than last Memorial Day at an average price of $168 for a round-trip flight along the top 40 domestic routes. At $59, the average daily cost of a car rental this Memorial Day is the lowest rate in the past four years, 11% cheaper than last year.

Travelers will save on AAA Three Diamond hotels this Memorial Day, which are trending 14% less expensive than last year, with an average rate of $186 nightly. Meanwhile, AAA Two Diamond hotels are 7% more expensive than last Memorial Day, with an average nightly cost of $151.

Top Memorial Day Destinations

Orlando again tops this year’s list of the most-visited Memorial Day destinations in the U.S., based on AAA advance travel bookings. Cruises to Alaska, originating in Seattle and Anchorage, as well as warm-weather destinations in Hawaii, Las Vegas, Phoenix and southern California top travelers’ domestic itineraries this summer.

  • Orlando, Florida
  • Seattle, Washington
  • Honolulu, Hawaii
  • Las Vegas, Nevada
  • Anchorage, Alaska
  • Phoenix, Arizona
  • Anaheim, California
  • Boston, Massachusetts
  • Denver, Colorado
  • New York, New York

For those planning an overseas vacation, Europe is a major draw this year. Rome, Dublin and London are the most popular international travel destinations for Memorial Day weekend.

According to Hertz, the busiest airport pick-up locations for travelers renting a car this Memorial Day are expected to be Orlando (MCO), Las Vegas (LAS), Atlanta (ATL), Los Angeles (LAX) and Kahului, HI (OGG). The busiest day for rental pick-ups is expected to be May 25, with an average rental length of nearly six days, as travelers look to take advantage of the long holiday weekend.

AAA to Help 340,000 Motorists

AAA expects to “rescue” more than 340,000 motorists at the roadside this Memorial Day weekend. Dead batteries, lockouts and flat tires will be the leading reasons AAA members will experience car trouble.  Make sure your vehicle is road-trip ready. Make a good B-E-T to stay on the road this summer by having your Battery tested, looking for Engine coolant leaks and checking Tire condition. 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.

Before heading out on a road trip this Memorial Day, download the free AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android. Travelers can use the app to map a route, find the lowest gas prices, access exclusive member discounts, make travel arrangements, request AAA roadside assistance, find AAA Approved Auto Repair facilities and more. Learn more at AAA.com/mobile.

With the AAA Mobile app, travelers can also find nearly 59,000 AAA Diamond Rated hotels and restaurants. AAA’s is the only rating system that uses full-time, professionally trained inspectors to evaluate each property on an annual basis. Every AAA Inspected & Approved establishment offers the assurance of acceptable cleanliness, comfort and hospitality, and ratings of One to Five Diamonds help travelers find the right match for amenities and services.

Sources

INRIX is the global leader in connected car services and transportation analytics. Leveraging big data and the cloud, INRIX delivers comprehensive services and solutions to help move people, cities and businesses forward.

IHS Markit is a London-based business information provider teamed with AAA in 2009 to jointly analyze travel trends during major holidays. AAA has been reporting on holiday travel trends for more than two decades. The complete AAA/IHS Markit 2018 Memorial Day holiday travel forecast is available here.

 

 

About Ken Zino

Ken Zino is an auto industry veteran with global experience in print and electronic media. He has auto testing, marketing, public relations and communications expertise garnered while working in Asia, Europe and the U.S.
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