The Memorial Day holiday weekend traditionally marks the beginning of the U.S. summer travel season. According to a forecast from automobile association AAA and IHS Markit, a total of 42.8 million Americans will drive, fly or travel by boat, train or bus this year, up by 3.6% year over year from an estimated 41.5 million in 2018.
The vast majority of travelers, 37.6 million (about 88%), will be taking road trips, up by 1.3 million year over year. Another 1.9 million (7.68%) are expected to travel by air and 4.4 million (4.4%) will travel by rail, bus and cruise ships.
Tuesday’s national average pump price for a gallon of regular gasoline is $2.86, two cents lower than last year’s average on the same day and down by seven cents compared to the 2017 price. Last week, the U.S. Energy Information Administration forecast that summer retail gas prices would average $2.76 a gallon, down 3% compared to last summer’s average of $2.85.
Gas prices peaked last summer at $2.98 in the week before Memorial Day, according to analysts at GasBuddy. Prices for this year’s holiday are forecast to be lower.
AAA Vice President Paula Twidale comment, “Americans are eagerly anticipating the start of summer, and higher gas prices won’t keep them home this Memorial Day weekend. Consumer spending remains strong, helped by solid job and income growth. Families continue to prioritize spending their disposable incomes on travel, and near-record numbers of them are looking forward to doing just that for Memorial Day.”
AAA notes that car rental prices have declined 7% compared with last year, with an average daily rate of $55. Mid-range hotels are between 2% and 3% cheaper this year, with an average nightly rate of $146 and $183, respectively, for AAA Two and Three Diamond-rated properties.
Airfares are roughly flat compared to last Memorial Day, with the average price for a round-trip ticket on the top 40 domestic routes at $171 ($168 a year ago). Rental car rates are pegged at $59 a day, down 11% year over year and the lowest in four years.
The worst part of the holiday weekend travel will occur when everyone tries to leave town or get home at the same time. Travelers based in Boston and Washington, D.C., can expect travel times to increase by three times when they try to get home on Monday afternoon. The worst day for congestion getting out of Atlanta is Thursday, May 23, during evening commute time, when it will take about 2.2 times longer to leave the city behind. Travelers leaving New York face a Friday afternoon commute that will be about twice as long as usual. This is how long you’re going to wait at 40 of America’s largest airports.
The 10 top destinations for U.S. travelers this year include Orlando, New York, Las Vegas, Honolulu, Anaheim, Seattle, Phoenix, Anchorage, Tampa and San Francisco. Seattle and Anchorage are popular jumping-off points for cruises along the Alaska coast, while Orlando and Anaheim are home to Disney World and Disneyland, respectively.
One final word: AAA expects to be called out to rescue more than 353,000 motorists. Dead batteries, flat tires and lockouts will be the leading reasons AAA members will experience car trouble. And maybe don’t drive in certain places — this is where your car is most likely to be stolen in every state.