Summer Travel Takes Off With Record Road Trips

Nearly 44 million are planning to travel this Memorial Day weekend.

May 14, 2024

The AAA projects that 43.8 million travelers will travel 50 miles or more from their home over the Memorial Day holiday, a 4% increase over last year and the second highest travel forecast for the holiday since the organization began tracking in 2000.

“We haven’t seen Memorial Day weekend travel numbers like these in almost 20 years,” said Paula Twidale, senior vice president of AAA Travel. “We’re projecting an additional one million travelers this holiday weekend compared to 2019, which not only means we’re exceeding pre-pandemic levels but also signals a very busy summer travel season ahead.”

Road trips are expected to set a record. The AAA projects 38.4 million people will travel by car over Memorial Day weekend, the highest number for the holiday since 2000. The number of drivers this year is up 4% compared to last year and 1.9% higher than in 2019.

“Travel times are expected to be up to 90% longer than normal. Travelers should stay up to date on traffic apps, 511 services and local news stations to avoid sitting in traffic longer than necessary,” said Bob Pishue, transportation analyst at INRIX.

According to AAA car rental partner Hertz, Orlando, Denver, Atlanta, Boston and Las Vegas are the cities displaying the highest rental demand, with the busiest pick-up days projected to be Thursday, May 23 and Friday, May 24.

AAA also predicts that it will be the most crowded Memorial Day weekend at airports since 2005, with an expected 3.51 million air travelers. Nearly two million people are expected to travel by other modes of transportation, including buses, cruises and trains.

AAA also recognized a number of travel trends that people are expected to partake in this summer and beyond, including:

  • Bucket Lists: Travelers taking once-in-a-lifetime trips.
  • Milestones: Families booking anniversary, retirement and family reunion trips.
  • Asia: More travelers interested in visiting Asia, especially Japan.
  • Solo Trips: More people, especially women, interested in traveling by themselves.
  • Luxury Vacations: More travelers seeking high-end cruises and tours.
  • Trains: Many travelers interested in rail vacations across New England, Canada and Europe.
  • Adventure in Nature: Travelers booking trips to Antarctica, Africa and South Pacific.

Memorial Day weekend kicks off what is expected to be a busy summer-drive season. Nearly two in three Americans (62%) say that they are likely to take a road trip this summer, according to a national consumer survey conducted by NACS. More consumer insights are available in the May 2023 NACS Magazine article, “A Parting of the Clouds”.