34.9 Million Travelers to Hit the Road This Memorial Day

People want to travel for leisure despite historically high costs.

May 23, 2022

People on Vacation at the Beach

ORLANDO, Fla.—More travelers are expected to hit the road this Memorial Day weekend compared with 2021, according to AAA. The unofficial start of summer will be busy, says AAA, with 39.2 million people traveling 50 miles or more from home. This is an increase of 8.3% over 2021, bringing travel volumes almost in line with those in 2017.

“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.”

Air travel volume, which began to rally last Thanksgiving, will hit levels just shy of 2019 with three million people expected to take to the skies this Memorial Day weekend. In fact, the percentage of people traveling by air will surpass 2019 levels with 7.7% of travelers choosing air travel as their preferred mode (it was 7.5% in 2019).

However, the majority of people will travel by car—34.9 million are expected to take a road trip during the holiday weekend despite historically high gas prices. But a greater portion of travelers are opting for air and other modes of travel than in previous years. Share of car travel fell from 92.1% last year to 88.9% this year, a slight indication that higher prices at the pump are having an impact on how people choose to travel this Memorial Day.

INRIX predicts drivers will encounter the longest travel delays before the holiday weekend, particularly during the afternoons of Thursday, May 26, and Friday, May 27. Drivers in major U.S. metros could experience double the travel times compared to a normal trip.

“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, 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.”

AAA booking data reveals that big cities and beaches are top destinations this Memorial Day, both domestically and abroad. Orlando, Florida, is the top domestic destination and Vancouver, Canada, is the top international destination.

NACS spoke with AAA’s national public relations manager Andrew Gross for the latest episode of Convenience Matters to talk about how convenience stores are getting ready to be road trip destinations for travelers this summer.

“We are looking at what is going to be the start of a very robust summer travel season, and Memorial Day is the great kickoff,” said Gross.