Memorial Day Travelers to Top 41 Million: AAA

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The highest holiday gasoline prices in four years will not be enough to keep Americans from hitting the road for the Memorial Day holiday weekend. More than 41.5 million people will travel the nation’s highways over the holiday, an increase of 5% from last year’s total and the most in more than a dozen years, according to AAA.

The vast majority of travelers — 36.6 million (about 88%) — will be taking road trips, which is up by 4.7% year over year. Another million (6.8%) are expected to travel by air, and 1.8 million (2.4%) will travel by rail, bus or cruise ship.

Thursday’s national average price for a gallon of regular gasoline is $2.871, up nearly six cents compared with last month and nearly 44 cents higher than last year. The U.S. Energy Information Administration last week forecast that the average price for gasoline for the summer driving season (April through September) will be $2.90 a gallon. Monthly average gasoline prices are forecast to reach a summer peak of $2.97 a gallon in June, before falling to $2.86 in September.

Bill Sutherland, AAA’s senior vice president for Travel and Publishing, said:

The highest gas prices since 2014 won’t keep travelers home this Memorial Day weekend. 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.

Airfares have dropped by 7% since last Memorial Day, and the average price for a round-trip ticket on the top 40 domestic routes is $168. Rental car rates are pegged at $59 a day, down 11% year over year and the lowest in four years.

Getting out of town or to the airport will take more time too, says AAA. If you live in New York City, the worst time to try to leave town will be Friday, May 25, between 3:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Your commute time will increase by a factor of nearly three, according to AAA research partner INRIX. Escaping Washington, D.C., will lengthen your commute by 2.3 times, and Chicago commuters can expect commute times out of the city 1.8 times normal.

AAA listed the top 10 destinations for Memorial Day travelers this year.

  1. Orlando, Florida
  2. Seattle, Washington
  3. Honolulu, Hawaii
  4. Las Vegas, Nevada
  5. Anchorage, Alaska
  6. Phoenix, Arizona
  7. Anaheim, California
  8. Boston, Massachusetts
  9. Denver, Colorado
  10. New York, New York

In case you’re wondering, Seattle and Anchorage are popular jumping-off points for cruises along the Alaska coast.