AAA forecasts the most holiday road trippers on record; INRIX predicts drive times could be more than three times longer than normal
May 21, 2019 – Nearly 43 million Americans will start their summers on a high note with a Memorial Day weekend getaway. This long holiday weekend, marking the unofficial start of summer vacation season, will see the second-highest travel volume on record since AAA began tracking holiday travel volumes dating back to 2000, trailing only the bar set in 2005. Overall, an additional 1.5 million more people will take to the nation’s roads, rails and runways compared with last year, a 3.6% increase.
For these motorists, INRIX, a global transportation analytics company, expects travel delays in major cities and vacation destinations could be more than three times longer than normal.
“Americans are eagerly anticipating the start of summer, and lower gas prices are fueling Memorial Day weekend travel,” said Leslie Gamble, AAA Oklahoma spokesman. “Consumer spending remains strong, helped by solid job and income growth. Families continue to prioritize spending their disposable incomes on travel, and near-record numbers of them are looking forward to doing just that for Memorial Day.”
By the numbers: 2019 Memorial Day holiday travel forecast
- Automobiles: The vast majority of travelers – 37.6 million – will hit the road, the most on record for the holiday and 3.5% more than last year.
- Planes: 3.25 million people will take to the skies, 4.8% more than last year, second only to 2005.
- Trains, Buses and Cruise Ships: Travel across these sectors will increase by 3.8% to 1.9 million passengers.
Drivers beware: Worst times to hit the road
For the 37.6 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, while New Yorkers and Washington, D.C., could see three times the delay.
Gas prices won’t keep holiday travelers home
A recent dip in gas prices is welcome news for motorists and Memorial Day holiday weekend road trips are expected to increase for the fifth straight year,” said Gamble. Eighty eight percent of travelers will choose to drive to their Memorial Day destinations this year, the most on record. “Motorists can find gas for $2.75 or less at nearly half of all gas stations in the country.” Compared to last month, today’s national average ($2.85) is cheaper by a penny and is eight cents cheaper year-over-year.
Travelers to see relief in lower hotel and car rental costs
Travelers can also find lower prices on car rentals and hotels this Memorial Day. According to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, car rental prices have declined 7% compared with last year, with an average daily rate of $55. Mid-range hotels are between 2% and 3% cheaper this year, with an average nightly rate of $146 and $183, respectively, for AAA Two and Three Diamond Rated properties. Meanwhile, airfares are holding steady compared with last Memorial Day, for an average roundtrip price of $171.
Top Memorial Day travel destinations
Orlando, New York City and Las Vegas can expect an influx of travelers for the holiday. These are the top destinations in the U.S. this Memorial Day weekend, based on advance AAA Travel bookings:
- Orlando, Florida
- New York, New York
- Las Vegas, Nevada
- Honolulu, Hawaii
- Anaheim, California
- Seattle, Washington
- Phoenix, Arizona
- Anchorage, Alaska
- Tampa, Florida
- San Francisco, California
For those travelers planning an international vacation for Memorial Day, Europe is the destination of choice. Rome, London, Dublin and Paris are the most popular locales for international vacations this Memorial Day weekend, with Vancouver, Canada, rounding out the top five.
According to Hertz, a more than 40-year AAA partner, the busiest airport pick-up locations for travelers renting a car this Memorial Day are expected to be Orlando (MCO), Los Angeles (LAX), Denver (DEN), Las Vegas (LAS), and San Francisco (SFO). The busiest day for rental pick-ups is expected to be Friday, May 24, with an average rental length of nearly five days, as travelers look to take advantage of the long holiday weekend.
AAA to rescue more than 353,000 motorists
AAA expects to be called on to rescue more than 353,000 motorists at the roadside this Memorial Day weekend. Over last year’s Memorial Day holiday, 3,829 Oklahomans with AAA memberships needed help while stranded. Dead batteries, flat tires and lockouts will be the leading reasons AAA members will experience car trouble.
AAA recommends motorist take their vehicles to a trusted repair facility to perform any needed maintenance before heading out on a road trip. 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.
AAA’s projections are based on economic forecasting and research by IHS Markit, a London-based business information provider. For the purposes of this forecast, the Memorial Day holiday travel period is defined as the five-day period from Thursday, May 23 to Monday, May 27. In cooperation with AAA, IHS Markit developed a unique methodology to forecast actual domestic travel volumes, using macroeconomic drivers such as employment; output; household net worth; asset prices including stock indices; interest rates; housing market indicators and variables related to travel and tourism, including prices of gasoline, airline travel and hotel stays. The complete AAA/IHS Markit 2019 Memorial Day holiday travel forecast is available here.