If you’re hoping for a low-traffic Memorial Day weekend, we wouldn’t recommend getting those hopes too high.
According to AAA Texas, 3.4 million Texans, and more than 41.4 million Americans, will be traveling in near-record numbers this Memorial Day. This is nearly 5 percent more travelers than last year and the most in more than a dozen years, a news release said.
With nearly 2 million additional Americans taking to planes, trains, automobiles and other modes of transportation, INRIX, a global transportation analytics company, expects travel delays on major roads could be more than three times longer than normal, with the busiest days being Thursday and Friday (May 24-25) as commuters mix with holiday travelers, the release explained.
“Rising gas prices are not discouraging Texans from traveling this Memorial Day,” Kent Livesay, AAA Texas vice president/general manager, said in the release. “Nearly three million Texans will travel away from home by automobile this Memorial Day Weekend, a figure we haven’t seen since 2005. A strong economy and growing consumer confidence are motivating Texans to kick off what we expect to be a busy summer travel season.”
The release included a breakdown of the 2018 Memorial Day holiday travel forecast:
— Travel by automobile – 2.9 million people, a 4.7 percent increase from 2017
— Air travel – 256,000 people, a 7.2 percent increase from 2017
— Other travel (trains, busses) – 162,000, a 2.1 percent increase from 2017
— Total Texas travel volume – 3.4 million people, a 4.7 percent increase from 2017
— Travel by automobile – 36.6 million people, a 4.7 percent increase from 2017
— Air travel – 3.1 million people, a 6.8 percent increase from 2017
— Other travel (trains, busses) – 1.8 million people, a 2.4 percent increase from 2017
— Total national travel volume – 41.5 million people, a 4.8 percent increase from 2017
This data shows that the vast majority of travelers – 36.6 million – will hit the road this Memorial Day. Additionally, though air travel is only about a tenth of automobile travel it continues to increase for the fifth consecutive year.
AAA said in the release it expects to rescue more than 340,000 motorists at the roadside this Memorial Day weekend from dead batteries, lockouts, flat tires and more.
“Before hitting the road, make sure your vehicle is road-trip ready. Make a good B-E-T to stay on the road this summer by having your Battery tested, looking for Engine coolant leaks and checking Tire condition,” AAA said in the release. “Be prepared for emergencies with a mobile phone and car charger, a flashlight with extra batteries, a first-aid kit, a basic toolkit, and drinking water and snacks for all passengers.”
With travel by road looking to be the most congested, the release included a breakdown by metro area of the worst days and times to “hit the road,” that thankfully featured only one Texas city.
The worst time to travel for the holiday for Houstonians will be Thursday, May 24, from 4:30-6p.m., during which drivers can expect 1.5x normal delay.
“Ranked the most congested country in world, U.S. drivers are all too familiar with sitting in traffic,” Graham Cookson, INRIX chief economist and head of research, said in the release. “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.”
Additionally, the release stated that the 88 percent of travelers choosing to drive will pay the most expensive Memorial Day gas prices since 2014, though some can expect some relief in their pocketbook when paying for airfare, car rentals and most-mid range hotels.
Gas prices averaged $2.72 in April, an increase of 33 cents from last year, the release stated. However, according to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, airfares are 7 percent lower than last Memorial Day at an average price of $168 for a round-trip flight along the top 40 domestic routes; at $59, the average daily cost of a car rental this Memorial Day is the lowest rate in the past four years and 11 percent cheaper than last year.
Travelers will also save on AAA Three Diamond hotels this Memorial Day, which are trending 14 percent less expensive than last year, with an average rate of $186 nightly, the release detailed. Conversely though, AAA Two Diamond hotels are 7 percent more expensive than last Memorial Day, with an average nightly cost of $151.
The release also detailed top Memorial Day travel destinations:
— Orlando, Florida
— Seattle, Washington
— Honolulu, Hawaii
— Las Vegas, Nevada
— Anchorage, Alaska
— Phoenix, Arizona
— Anaheim, California
— Boston, Massachusetts
— Denver, Colorado
— New York, New York
According to Hertz, the busiest airport pick-up locations for travelers renting a car this Memorial Day are expected to be Orlando (MCO), Las Vegas (LAS), Atlanta (ATL), Los Angeles (LAX) and Kahului, HI (OGG). Additionally, the busiest day for rental pick-ups is expected to be May 25, with an average rental length of nearly six days, as travelers look to take advantage of the long holiday weekend.
For the complete AAA/IHS Markit 2018 Memorial Day holiday travel forecast, visit newsroom.aaa.com/travel.