ORLANDO, FL—Nearly 43 million Americans will start their summers on a high note with a Memorial Day weekend getaway, according to AAA.
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.
Despite a rising national gas price average that is inching closer to the $3 per gallon mark, the vast majority of holiday travelers will drive to their destinations. For these motorists, INRIX, a global transportation analytics company, expects travel delays on major roads could be more than three times longer than normal during evening commutes.
“Americans are eagerly anticipating the start of summer, and higher gas prices won’t keep them home this Memorial Day weekend,” said Paula Twidale, VP, AAA Travel. “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.”
Higher Gas Prices Won’t Keep Holiday Travelers Home
Gas prices have increased by more than 30 cents in the last two months with the national average approaching $3 per gallon ($2.86 on May 14, 2019), which is relatively on par with prices this time last year ($2.87 on May 14, 2018). However, 88% of travelers will choose to drive to their Memorial Day destinations this year, the most on record.
“When gas prices are higher, travelers may shorten the distance of a road trip, eat out less or look for free activities,” said AAA gas price expert Jeanette Casselano. “But, overall, prices are very similar to this time last year and, like then, they aren’t letting that deter them from taking summer road trips.”
Lower Hotel and Car Rental Costs
While road trippers are paying more to fill up their vehicles at the gas pump, some of that additional expense can be made up with 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, FL, 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, FL
- New York
- Las Vegas
- Anaheim, CA
- Seattle, WA
- Anchorage, AK
- Tampa, FL
- San Francisco
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.