AAA: Nearly 44 Million Travelers will Take to the Roads and Sky – For Memorial Day weekend

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South Carolinians are forecast to travel in record numbers for this year’s Memorial Day weekend. AAA forecasts nationally, nearly 43.8 million travelers will travel 50 miles or more during the holiday travel period*, the second highest traveled Memorial Day on record. That’s 1.7 million more travelers than last year (4% increase), yet slightly behind 2005’s record of 44 million.
“Memorial Day will be the start to a very busy summer of travel,” said Debbie Haas, Vice President of Travel for AAA – The Auto Club Group. “American travelers are forecast to surpass pre-pandemic levels, making this the busiest Memorial Day holiday weekend in nearly two decades. The main driver of the projection is strong consumer interest in traveling both domestically and abroad. Interest in traveling internationally is at the highest level in recent years.”
Road trips are expected to set a record in South Carolina and nationwide, with nearly 1.5 million more Americans on the road than last year. AAA projects nearly 38.4 million will travel by car over Memorial Day weekend, the highest number for that holiday since AAA began tracking in 2000. The national number of drivers this year is up 4% compared to last year and 1.9% higher than in 2019.
“Traveling by car is appealing for many people because of the convenience and flexibility it provides,” said Tiffany Wright, spokesperson, AAA – The Auto Club Group in the Carolinas. “However, Memorial Day drivers may have to pay more at the gas pump.”
During last year’s holiday weekend, South Carolina gas prices averaged $3.19 per gallon. This week, the state average is $3.20. Visit GasPrices.AAA.com to view daily state and metro average prices. Drivers can use the free AAA mobile app to find the lowest gas prices in their area, and get discounted pricing at the pump by participating in the Fuel Rewards Program.
“Drivers should expect continued volatility at the pump as the summer driving season gets underway,” Wright continued. The wildcard remains the cost of oil, and unlike last year, there are now two wars – in the Middle East and Ukraine – that could roil the oil market.”
Airports are bracing for a spike in travelers. AAA expects 3.51 million Americans to travel by air this holiday weekend, an increase of 4.8% over last year and 9% jump compared to 2019. This will be the most crowded Memorial Day weekend at airports since 2005, when 3.64 million flew for the holiday as the travel industry finally rebounded post 9/11. This Memorial Day weekend, air ticket prices are comparable to last year.
According to AAA booking data, the average price for a round trip domestic flight will cost $778. That’s 2% more than last year’s holiday weekend. International flights are 4% more expensive – averaging $1485 for a roundtrip ticket. Several factors play into how much travelers pay for airfare, including destination, number of stops, and fare class. For example, passengers who book nonstop flights with seat selection and carry-on bags included will likely pay more than those who select basic economy with a layover.
In reviewing all hotel bookings with AAA, domestic hotels are 5% cheaper this Memorial Day weekend compared to last. The total average cost per stay (which can be multiple nights) is $500. International hotels are about the same as last year. The average cost per stay is $660.
Nearly two million people are expected to travel by other modes of transportation, including buses, cruises, and trains. AAA projects 1.9 million people will take these other modes of transportation, an increase of 5.6% compared to last year. “This category took the biggest hit during the pandemic,” Haas said. “Now – five years later – we’re back to 2019 numbers. Leading the charge is the resurgence in both ocean and river cruising, which came back extremely strong and continues to gain popularity. With ships of all sizes being introduced each year, there is constantly something new and exciting to explore for first time and repeat cruise enthusiasts.”
Domestic car rentals are 17% cheaper this Memorial Day weekend compared to last. Average total cost for a rental (which is typically for a few days) is $439. International car rentals are 16% cheaper this Memorial Day weekend compared to last. Average total cost for a rental (which is typically for a few days) is $617.
Cities with the highest rental demand this Memorial Day weekend are Orlando, Denver, Atlanta, Boston, and Las Vegas.
The busiest pick-up dates are Thursday, May 23 and Friday, May 24, with rental reservations averaging five days in length.
The most popular vehicle classes reserved for Memorial Day weekend are mid-size and full-size sedans, small and mid-size SUVs.