AAA projects that 39.3 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more away from home this Memorial Day weekend. That is one million more travelers than last year taking to the roads, skies, rails and water.
If the predictions are correct, this will be the highest Memorial Day travel volume since 2005.
"The expected spike in Memorial Day travel mirrors the positive growth seen throughout the travel industry this year," said Bill Sutherland, AAA senior VP, travel and publishing. "Higher confidence has led to more consumer spending, and many Americans are choosing to allocate their extra money on travel.”
The Memorial Day holiday travel period is defined as Thurs., May 25 to Mon., May 29.
By the Numbers: Memorial Day Travel Forecast
- 2017 will mark the third consecutive year of growth in Memorial Day travel with 2.7 percent more travelers than last year.
- 34.6 million Americans (88.1 percent of travelers) will drive to their destinations, an increase of 2.4 percent over last year.
- 2.9 million Americans are taking to the skies this Memorial Day, increasing air travel by 5.5 percent over last year.
- 1.75 million travelers, an increase 2.9 percent from 2016, will look to other modes of transportation, including cruises, trains and buses.
- Drivers will pay the highest Memorial Day gas prices since 2015. Airfares, car rental rates and mid-range hotels are all trending higher than last Memorial Day.
Travelers still hitting the road despite higher gas prices
While AAA expects most U.S. drivers will pay the highest Memorial Day gas prices since 2015, the vast majority of holiday travelers (88.1 percent) are still planning to hit the road. Automobile travel will grow by 2.4 percent this Memorial Day, with 34.6 million Americans planning a holiday road trip.
The national average price for a gallon of gas today is $2.34, 11 cents more than last year.
More Americans are planning to rent cars for their holiday road trips this year. AAA's car rental bookings are 19 percent higher than last Memorial Day. According to Hertz, the busiest day for car rental pick-ups is expected to be Friday, May 26, based on last year's data.
Large increases in flying and travel by other modes this Memorial Day
While road trips continue to reign supreme for Memorial Day, more Americans will fly, ride the train or bus, or take a cruise vacation compared to last year. Air travel is expected to increase 5.5 percent over last year, with 2.9 million Americans taking to the skies this Memorial Day. Travel by other modes of transportation, including cruises, trains and buses, will increase 2.9 percent, to 1.75 million travelers.
Airfares, hotel and car rental rates on the rise
According to AAA's Leisure Travel Index, average airfares for the top 40 domestic flight routes will be 9 percent higher this Memorial Day, with an average round trip ticket landing at $181. Hotel costs have also increased since last Memorial Day, with the average AAA Three Diamond Rated hotel costing $215, or 18 percent more than last year. Daily car rental rates will average $66, which is 7 percent more.
AAA and Waze share perspectives on holiday travel
According to Waze, a crowdsourced traffic and navigation app, Chicago, Los Angeles and New York are the busiest metro areas this Memorial Day weekend, based on last year's accident and traffic jam data. For travelers visiting or driving through these cities, be aware of high traffic volumes on Thursday and Friday – New York City sees an average 27 percent increase in accident alerts on these two days.
Many Memorial Day vacationers traveling abroad this year
While the vast majority of travelers are planning a Memorial Day road trip, many other Americans will take advantage of the long holiday weekend and travel internationally, with Europe especially popular this year. The top destinations for Memorial Day weekend, based on AAA travel bookings, are: Orlando, Rome, London, Dublin (Ireland), Vancouver, Seattle, Las Vegas, New York, Paris and Honolulu (Hawaii).
According to Hertz, the busiest airport pick-up locations are expected to be Los Angeles (LAX), San Francisco (SFO), Orlando (MCO), Atlanta (ATL) and Denver (DEN), based on data from 2016.