Memorial Day weekend, often viewed as the unofficial start of the summer travel season, is fast approaching. This year, it’s projected to be busier than ever. With a significant increase in travel volume anticipated by the American Automobile Association (AAA), it’s essential to plan accordingly if you aim to avoid the crowds.
Memorial Day Weekend to be busier than before the pandemic
According to AAA’s annual travel forecast, this year’s Memorial Day weekend is set to witness a 7% increase in travel volume compared to last year. Roughly 42.3 million Americans are expected to journey 50 miles or more from their homes during the long weekend, a substantial increase of 2.7 million from 2022.
This surge in travel makes it the third busiest Memorial Day weekend since 2000 when AAA initiated tracking holiday travel data. Despite inflation, more Americans are planning trips and booking them earlier. Consequently, this summer could be one for the record books, particularly in terms of airport traffic.
Navigating the Air and Road Traffic
Airline passengers are expected to constitute 8% of travelers this Memorial Day weekend, translating to around 3.4 million flyers. This is a notable increase of 11% compared to last year’s holiday weekend, and a massive 36% leap from typical weekend figures.
For road travelers, the scenario looks much the same. About 37.1 million Americans are predicted to hit the road over Memorial Day weekend. Major metro areas such as Boston, New York, Seattle, and Tampa could see their travel times double due to the surge in holiday traffic.
For those choosing alternative transportation, such as trains and buses, a 20.6% increase in travel volume is projected over 2022, marking the most significant jump across all transportation modes.
Anticipating the Busiest Travel Days
Analyzing past data can provide valuable insights into when to expect the highest volume of travelers. The Friday before Memorial Day is traditionally the most crowded day to travel. Meanwhile, the Sunday after Memorial Day has consistently attracted the largest post-holiday crowds.
The least crowded days to travel, both pre- and post-holiday, are typically the Tuesday before and Wednesday after the long weekend. Adjusting your travel plans to these patterns might help to avoid the majority of the crowds.
Popular Destinations and Rising International Travel
Top destinations for this Memorial Day weekend include hotspots like Orlando, New York City, Las Vegas, Denver, and Boston. There’s also a marked increase in cruise bookings, with popular port cities in Florida, Alaska, and Seattle topping the list.
Notably, international travel is surging, with bookings 250% higher this holiday weekend compared to 2022. Most popular among these are European cities like Rome, Paris, Dublin, London, Barcelona, and Athens.
- Book Early Flights: Morning departures are statistically more reliable and less likely to be delayed compared to late-day flights.
- Travel on Saturday: Consider flying out on Saturday morning instead of rushing out on Friday afternoon.
- Extend Your Trip: To avoid peak travel times, consider returning the Saturday after Memorial Day. These days are typically less crowded and could provide you with a more relaxed end to your vacation.
- Be Prepared: With the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) expecting air travel volumes to surpass pre-pandemic levels, it’s crucial to be prepared for potential disruptions. One handy resource is the Department of Transportation’s Aviation Consumer Protection website, which provides a comparison of what each airline offers in the event of a controllable delay or cancellation.
- Avoid Peak Road Travel Times: If you’re driving, try to avoid the heaviest holiday-weekend road traffic, predicted to occur on Friday, May 26, between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. Additionally, the afternoons of Thursday, May 25; Monday, May 29; and Tuesday, May 30, are expected to be high volume, with potential for congestion and traffic snarls.
- Book activities in advance: On busy days, tours and activities sell-out. Make sure you don’t get disappointed by booking activities ahead through Viator.com or GetYourGuide.com