ORLANDO, Fla. – Memorial Day marks the unofficial start of summer, and Americans will kick off the season by traveling in near-record numbers. According to AAA, more than 41.5 million Americans will travel this Memorial Day weekend, nearly 5% more than last year and the most in more than a dozen years. With nearly 2 million additional people taking to planes, trains, automobiles and other modes of transportation, the global transportation analytics company INRIX expects travel delays on major roads could be up to three times longer than normal, with the busiest days being Thursday and Friday (May 24-25) as commuters mix with holiday travelers.
“The highest gas prices since 2014 won’t keep travelers home this Memorial Day weekend,” said Bill Sutherland, senior vice president of AAA Travel and Publishing, in a press release. “A strong economy and growing consumer confidence are giving Americans all the motivation they need to kick off what we expect to be a busy summer travel season with a Memorial Day getaway.”
For the 36.6 million Americans traveling by automobile, INRIX, in collaboration with AAA, predicts drivers will experience the greatest amount of congestion on Thursday, May 24, and Friday, May 25, both in the late afternoon as commuters leave work early and mix with holiday travelers. Several major U.S. metros could experience double the travel times compared to a normal trip, while New Yorkers could see three times the delay.
“Ranked the most congested country in the world, U.S. drivers are all too familiar with sitting in traffic,” said Graham Cookson, chief economist and head of research for INRIX. “Drivers should expect congestion across a greater number of days than in previous years, with the getaway period starting on Wednesday, May 23. Our advice to drivers is to avoid peak commute times in major cities altogether—traveling late morning or early afternoon—or plan alternative routes.”
The 88% of travelers choosing to drive will pay the most expensive Memorial Day gas prices since 2014. Gas prices averaged $2.72 in April, an increase of 33 cents from last year, due to expensive crude oil, record gasoline demand and shrinking global supply. However, these higher prices are not keeping holiday travelers home, with automobile travel expected to increase for the fourth straight year.