Biggest Start to Summer Vacation Season in Over a Decade
MADISON, Wisc. (May 14, 2018) – Memorial Day marks the unofficial start of summer, and Americans will kick off the season by traveling in near-record numbers. According to AAA, more than 41.5 million Americans will travel this Memorial Day weekend, nearly 5 percent more than last year and the most in more than a dozen years (2005).
Even as gas prices rise like outside temperatures, AAA still expects an additional 2 million people will take to planes, trains, automobiles and other modes of transportation. INRIX, a global transportation analytics company, expects travel delays on major roads could be 2-3 times longer than normal, with the busiest days being Thursday and Friday (May 24-25), as commuters mix with holiday travelers.
“Higher gas prices will not be enough to keep travelers home this Memorial Day weekend,” said Vicky Evans, Assistant Vice President, Travel Sales Development, AAA – The Auto Club Group. “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.”
View the full Economic and Holiday Travel Reports from AAA and HIS
By The Numbers: 2018 Memorial Day holiday travel forecast
Total Travelers: More than 41.5 million Americans (811,069 from Wisconsin) will travel on Memorial Day Weekend, a nearly 5 percent increase over last year.
National Travel volume has increased by 6 million since 2014 and 11 million since the 2009 recession-driven low.
Automobiles: The vast majority of travelers – 36.6 million nationally, 733,397 in Wisconsin – will hit the road this Memorial Day, approximately 4.7 percent more than last year.
Planes: 3.1 million people will travel by air across the US (more than 44,000 in Wisconsin), a nearly 7 percent increase and the fifth year of consecutive air travel volume increases.
Trains, Buses, Rails and Cruise Ships: Travel across these sectors will increase by over 2 percent to 1.8 million passengers nationally (33,574 in Wisconsin).
Gas prices for this holiday weekend will be the most expensive in four years.
Drivers Beware: Worst Times to Hit the Road
For the 36.6 million Americans traveling by automobile, INRIX, in collaboration with 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. metros could experience double the travel times compared to a normal trip.
“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 not deterring travelers
The 88 percent 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 percent over last Memorial Day.
Last year, gas prices on Memorial Day averaged $2.37 nationwide ($2.31 in Florida). Although holiday prices at the pump are projected to be the highest in four years, AAA does not expect gasoline to come anywhere near 2014-levels, where the national average was $3.66 ($3.62 in Florida)
Lower hotel, airline and car rental costs make up for higher gas prices
While road trippers will pay higher prices at the gas pump this year, travelers can expect some relief in their wallets when paying for airfare, car rentals and most mid-range hotels.
According to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index:
Airfares are 7 percent lower than last Memorial Day, landing at an average price of $168 for a round-trip flight along the top 40 domestic routes.
Hotels are also less expensive than last year. AAA Three Diamond hotels are 14 percent less than last year, with an average rate of $186 per night. Meanwhile, AAA Two Diamond hotels are 7 percent more expensive than last Memorial Day, with an average nightly cost of $151.
Car rentals average $59 per day – the lowest rate in the past four years, and 11 percent cheaper than last year.
According to Hertz, a 40-year AAA partner, 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.
Travelers can book a flight, car rental or hotel at AAA.com and on the free AAA mobile app. They can also compare AAA Diamond rated properties at AAA.com/Diamonds.
Top Memorial Day travel 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 the list of travelers’ domestic destinations this summer.
Las Vegas, Nevada
New York, New York
For those planning to kick off their summers with 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.
AAA to rescue more than 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.
Before hitting the road, 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 your 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.
Download the AAA Mobile app before Memorial Day road trips
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.
AAA’s projections are based on economic forecasting and research by IHS Markit. The 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.