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John Townsend
Public Relations Manager, DC
O: (202) 481-6820 (ext. 4462108)
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WASHINGTON, D. C. (Wednesday, May 26, 2021) ––It is a new day and a new beginning after the lost year and a year of loss. The magic and joy of traveling are making a comeback. As proof, approximately 935,000 people living in and around Washington, D.C., and its environs, will bring travel back and venture 50 miles or more from their homes during the Memorial Day holiday weekend, AAA is projecting.

The plurality of whom, some 867,000 persons hailing from the Washington metro area, will travel by automobile to their holiday weekend getaways.

Evidence of the return of holiday traveling will be felt on area freeways during the afternoon rush hour tomorrow, 3:30–5:30 p.m., especially along 1-95 south, along I-395 to Virginia 123, and on the Bay Bridge eastbound lanes.

But “the half has never yet been told.” Collectively, 2.8 million people residing in the Washington metro area, Maryland and Virginia combined are heading for the exits this Memorial Day. Of that collectivity, 2.6 million souls are traveling by automobile to their holiday destinations.

Hint. Hint. Holiday road trippers will come across the heaviest traffic congestion and the longest travel delays tomorrow afternoon and Friday afternoon, May 28, than they have seen in months, INRIX predicts. The pattern will manifest itself again on area freeways and roadways on the return trip on Memorial Day, Monday, May 31, notes AAA Mid-Atlantic.

This summer, the open road is calling. So are I-66, I-70, I-95, I-270, I-68 and US 50. The number of people in the Washington, D.C. metro area traveling over the Memorial Day holiday this year will return to 89% of those who traveled pre-pandemic, in 2019, when a record number of people in the Washington, D.C. metro area traveled for the holiday weekend, projects AAA.

This Memorial Day, they will have plenty of company as 37.1 million Americans travel 50 miles or more from home during this holiday weekend.

“Road trips will increase 51% during this Memorial Day holiday weekend, compared to the same holiday period a year ago, as holiday travel plummeted during the early phase of the pandemic,” said John B. Townsend II, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Manager of Public and Government Affairs.

“More than nine out of ten  Washington area residents making holiday getaways will embark on road trips – a staggering 93 percent of all holiday travelers hailing from the area. They will not be alone. They will joined on the highways and byways by 34.4 million other Americans.”

AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Memorial Day 2021

Travel Projections for the Washington SMSA At-A-Glance

Total Travel & Percentage

Automobile Travel & Percentage

Air Travel & Percentage

Other Modes of

Travel & Percentage


Up 59.7% from 585,191 travelers in 2020.


(93% of all area travelers).

Up 51.2% from 573,300 in 2020.


(7% of all area travelers).

Up 572.9% from 9,700 in 2020.


(0.3% of all area travelers).

Up 31% from 2,200 in 2020.

After a year of cabin fever, unrequited wanderlust, and deferred dreams of travel, this summer it seems Americans will recapture that spirit of long ago and live out that old commercial jingle: “See the U.S.A. In Your Chevrolet.” As a result of the surge in summer travel, holiday getaway traffic volume in the Washington metro will heavily impact the afternoon commute in a two-hour window, 3:30-5:30 p.m., Thursday, May 27.

As more people get the COVID-19 vaccine and consumer confidence grows, Washington area residents are demonstrating a strong desire to travel this Memorial Day holiday weekend.

It is a remarkable sea-change from last Memorial Day, which occurred two and a half months after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the coronavirus outbreak a  global pandemic on March 11, 2020, and the federal government and state and local governments issued stay-at-home orders and implemented or imposed travel restrictions.

Things were so dismal a year ago, so  AAA did not issue a Memorial Day holiday travel forecast in 2020.


  • A total of just over 934,800 people in the Washington, D.C. metro area are predicted to once again kick-off the official start of the summer holiday travel season by celebrating Memorial Day with a trip.
  • This tally represents an increase of almost 60% over last year when much of the country and the world was under COVID travel restrictions, if not locked down. 

All told, 15% of residents of the Washington metro area, which boasted a 2020 populace of 6.3 million, will travel more than 50 miles for Memorial Day weekend. 

  • In total, 2.78 million persons residing in the Washington metro area, Maryland and Virginia will venture more than 50 miles from home during the Memorial Day travel period. A sum of 2.58 million residents will travel by automobile to their holiday destinations.


  • Auto: The Great American Road Trip has been the most popular type of travel during the pandemic and has historically been the number one choice for the Memorial Day Holiday and that still holds true. The majority of metro area travelers, 866,600, are forecast to travel by vehicle this Memorial Day, an increase of over 51% over 2020.
  • Air: The number of Washington metro area residents flying in 2021 is expected to be almost six times what it was in 2020 when multiple factors kept most people from flying. More than 65,300 residents will travel by air, nearly a 573% increase from 2020.
  • Other: Travel by trains, buses, rails and cruise ships remains low at 2,800 passengers, but is a 31% increase over 2020.


With 37.1 million Americans travel during the upcoming federal holiday period, that officially kicks off the summer travel period, AAA Travel expects a significant rebound in the number of Americans planning to travel this Memorial Day holiday weekend.

The expected strong increase in demand from last year’s holiday, which fell during the early phase of the pandemic, still represents 13%—or nearly 6 million—fewer travelers than in 2019. AAA urges those who choose to travel this year to exercise caution and take measures to protect themselves and others as the pandemic continues.

Nearly 12 million more Americans will travel by car this holiday than in 2020, though this is still 9% less than in 2019. More than 9 in 10 Memorial Day travelers will drive to their destinations, as many Americans continue to substitute road trips for travel via planes, trains and other modes of transportation.

2021 Memorial Day Holiday Travelers






(Bus, Train, Cruise)

2021 (Forecast)





2020 (Actual)*





2019 (Actual)





Change (2019 to 2021)





Change (2020 to 2021)





*AAA did not issue a Memorial Day holiday travel forecast in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, actual travel volumes were recorded after the holiday for comparison purposes this year.

After a historically low year of air travel in 2020, this Memorial Day will see nearly 2.5 million Americans boarding airplanes, nearly six times more than last year (+577%). Still, 750,000 fewer people will take to the skies this holiday compared to 2019. AAA reminds air travelers that masks are required in all airports and on flights.

Meanwhile, just 237,000 Americans are expected to travel by other modes, including bus and train, this Memorial Day. This is the second-lowest volume on record, higher only than the 185,000 who traveled in 2020. In 2021, travel via these modes will be 88% below 2019 levels.

Nearly 12 million more Americans will travel by car this holiday than in 2020, though this is still 9% less than in 2019. More than 9 in 10 Memorial Day travelers will drive to their destinations, as many Americans continue to substitute road trips for travel via planes, trains and other modes of transportation.


Drivers Beware: Worst Times to Hit the Road

Holiday getaway traffic volume in the Washington metro area will heavily impact the afternoon commute in a two-hour window from 3:30-5:30 p.m., Thursday, May 27.

INRIX predicts drivers will encounter the longest travel delays before the holiday weekend, particularly during the afternoons on Thursday, May 27 and Friday, May 28.

Drivers in several major U.S. metros could experience double the travel times compared to a normal trip, while Atlanta, Houston and New York drivers could see more than three times the delay on the busiest corridors.

“Although vehicle trips are down as much as 40% in some metros, afternoon congestion is nearly back to pre-pandemic levels. With the increase of holiday travelers to the typical afternoon commute, drivers in the larger metros should expect longer delays heading into the holiday weekend,” said Bob Pishue, transportation analyst, INRIX.

“Travelers should anticipate delays to start on Wednesday and continue through Memorial Day. Our advice to drivers is to avoid the evening commute times and plan alternate routes.”

Metro Area

Worst Corridor

Worst Day

Worst Time

Delay Multiplier


I-85 Clockwise;
Hwy 81 to Augusta Rd

Thursday, May 27

3:30–5:30 PM



I-95 South;
MA-9 to Coney St

Thursday, May 27

3:00–5:00 PM



I-290 West;
Morgan St to Wolf Rd

Thursday, May 27

2:45–4:45 PM



I-696 West;
M-10 to US-94

Friday, May 28

2:00–4:00 PM



I-69 East;
I-610 to I-10

Friday, May 28

3:15–5:15 PM


Los Angeles

I-5 South; Colorado St to Florence Ave

Friday, May 28

4:30–6:30 PM


New York

I-95 West;
US-130 to GW Bdg

Thursday, May 27

1:00–3:00 PM


San Francisco

US-101 North; Golden Gate Bdg to I-580

Thursday, May 27

5:45–7:45 PM



I-5 South;
WA-18 to WA-7

Thursday, May 27

5:30–7:30 PM


Washington, D.C.

I-95 South;
I-395 to VA-123

Thursday, May 27

3:30–5:30 PM





Source: INRIX


Travel delays in the Washington metro area will increase ten percent along I-95 south, and along I-395 to VA-123 on Thursday, May 27, especially from 3:30 that afternoon until 5:30 p.m.

Prior to the pandemic, I-395 routinely experienced gridlock conditions during the P.M. peak hours. During the upcoming holiday getaway period, traffic volumes will be heavily constrained, as people head to the exits.

In Maryland, expect a whole lot of holiday traffic and travel delays on “US 50 toward Ocean City, I-70 and I-68 west toward the mountains, and I-95 north toward Delaware.”

“For those crossing the Bay Bridge, the Maryland Transportation Authority (MDTA) is advising motorists they should expect delays over the weekend. Heavy eastbound traffic volumes are expected Thursday through Saturday, May 27-29, with heavier westbound traffic volumes expected Sunday and Monday, May 30-31.”

The best off-peak times to travel the Bay Bridge over the holiday weekend will be:

  • Thursday, May 27 – before 10 a.m. and after 10 p.m.
  • Friday, May 28 – before 8 a.m. and after 10 p.m.
  • Saturday, May 29 – before 8 a.m. and after 5 p.m.
  • Sunday, May 30 – before 10 a.m. and after 10 p.m.
  • Memorial Day Monday, May 31 – before 8 a.m. and after 11 p.m.

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) will “lift most lane closures for holiday travel from noon Friday, May 28, until noon Tuesday, June 1. All HOV restrictions on Interstate 66 and rush-hour tolls on the 66 Express Lanes Inside the Beltway will be lifted on Memorial Day, Monday, May 31.” 

In contrast, periods of heavy congestion on the most recent Memorial Day weekends materialized between 12 p.m. and 6 p.m. on both Friday and Monday and at midday both Saturday and Sunday. That was true on Memorial Day itself in 2019, when area commuters were stuck in traffic three times the normal delay during the afternoon rush hour, just as INRIX had forecast.

Let’s “round up the usual suspects” this Memorial Day. There will be gridlock galore also on I-495 – the Capital Beltway; DC-295 S at East Capitol Street; Interstate 395 between Washington Boulevard and the George Washington Parkway; I-495 at the Dulles Toll Road.

Expect a big getaway traffic or travel crunch on I-395 from Duke St. to halfway between Duke St. and Edsall Road; I- 95 at northbound I-495 in Maryland; I-495 CCW @ MD-97/Georgia Avenue/Exit 31; yes, even I-295-Baltimore-Washington Parkway at both I/95/I-495 and again at Powder Mill Road.

This Memorial Day some travelers stuck in getaway traffic will swear up and down “the more things change the more they stay the same.”



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AAA provides automotive, travel, and insurance services to more than 62 million members nationwide and nearly 90,000 members in Washington, D.C.  AAA advocates for the safety and mobility of its members and has been committed to outstanding road service for more than 100 years.  AAA is a non-stock, membership corporation working on behalf of motorists, who can map a route, access a COVID travel restriction map, find local gas prices and electric vehicle charging stations, discover discounts, book a hotel, and track their roadside assistance service with the AAA Mobile app ( for iPhone, iPad and Android.  For more information on joining or renewing a Membership, visit

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