Roads will be bustling and airports will be busy during Memorial Day Weekend this year as AAA predicts 39.2 million people will travel 50 miles or more from home.
According to AAA’s 2022 Memorial Day Travel Forecast, numbers this year are up 8.3% versus 2021, bringing travel volumes almost in line with those in 2017. As volumes approach pre-pandemic levels, AAA said that travelers must book as early as now, keeping in mind that flexibility is key.
“Memorial Day is always a good predictor of what’s to come for summer travel,” said Paula Twidale, senior vice president, AAA Travel. “Based on our projections, summer travel isn’t just heating up, it will be on fire. People are overdue for a vacation, and they are looking to catch up on some much-needed R&R in the coming months.”
In the report, INRIX predicts drivers will encounter the longest travel delays before the vacation weekend, particularly during the afternoons on May 26 and May 27. Drivers in major U.S. metros could experience longer travel times.
Despite historic gas prices surpassing the $4 mark in early March, 34.9 million people plan to hit the road, rising 4.6% versus last year.
“Even with a significant increase in gas prices, we expect a large jump in holiday driving compared to the last few years,” said Bob Pishue, transportation analyst at INRIX. “Drivers should expect congestion on major roadways around big cities and popular destinations. Knowing when and where congestion will build can help drivers avoid the stress of sitting in traffic.”
However, more travelers are opting for air and other modes of travel than in previous years. Share of car travel dropped from 92.1% last year to 88.9% this year, indicating that higher fuel prices are affecting how people choose to travel this Memorial Day.
Air travel continues to rebound, increasing 25% compared to last year, the second-largest increase since 2010. This Memorial Day weekend, 3 million people are expected to fly, surpassing 2019 (7.5%) levels, with 7.7% of travelers choosing air travel as their preferred mode.
“Air travel has faced several challenges since the beginning of the year,” continued Twidale. “With the type of volume we anticipate, we continue to recommend the safety net of a travel agent and travel insurance. Both are a lifesaver if something unexpectedly derails your travel plans.”
Flights, car rentals, accommodations, tours, cruises, and other activities are in high demand, and availability is filling up, according to AAA.
The automotive group finds that the average lowest airfare is 6% more than 2021 at $184 per ticket, with Saturday being the most expensive day to fly and Monday the least. Meanwhile, mid-range hotel rates have gone up about 42%, with the average lowest nightly rates ranging between approximately $199 – $257 per night for AAA Approved Hotels.
For car rentals, daily rates have decreased 16% compared to last year, with the average lowest rate coming in at $100 per day.
Both domestically and internationally, AAA booking data reveals that big cities and beaches are top destinations this Memorial Day, with Orlando (Florida), Seattle (Washington), Miami (Florida), Las Vegas (Nevada), Anaheim (California), New York (New York), Denver (Colorado), Anchorage (Alaska), Boston (Massachusetts), and Honolulu (Hawaii) ranking on the list of top U.S. destinations.
International destinations for 2022 Memorial Day include Vancouver (Canada), Dublin (Ireland), Paris (France), Rome (Italy), London (England), Cancun (Mexico), Amsterdam (Netherlands), Barcelona (Spain), Nassau (Bahamas), and Calgary (Canada).
According to AAA, those traveling this summer must plan and book travel plans now to seal the best rates and any discounts for pre-paying in full. Prices are already climbing, and finding last-minute deals is unlikely with greater demand.