Memorial Day Holiday Travel Expected To Increase 3.6% Compared To 2018
BELLEVUE, Wash. — Nearly 43 million Americans will mark the unofficial start of summer with a Memorial Day weekend getaway, a 3.6% increase from last year. With Seattle ranking #6 on AAA’s list of Top Destinations, many of those travelers will be headed to the Emerald City. Despite rising gas prices, the vast majority of holiday travelers will reach their destinations by personal vehicle. Holiday road trippers have also landed Seattle on INRIX’s list of top 10 worse congested roadways for the busy weekend.
By the numbers: 2019 Memorial Day holiday travel forecast
- The vast majority of travelers – 37.6 million – will hit the road this year, the most ever on record for the holiday, 3.5% more than last year.
- Planes: 3.25 million people will travel by air, 4.8% more than last year
- Trains, Buses and Cruise Ships: Travel across these sectors will increase by 3.8% to 1.9 million passengers.
Higher gas prices not deterring travelers
Gas prices have increased nationally by more than 30 cents in the last two months with the national average at $2.86. Average gas prices around the Pacific Northwest surpassed $3 per gallon a while ago: $3.54 in Washington (14 cents higher than a year ago), $3.43 in Oregon (up 13 cents), $3.20 in Idaho (up a nickle). Despite costs like these, 88% of travelers will choose to drive to their Memorial Day destinations this year, the most on record.
Drivers beware: Worst times to hit the road
For the 37.6 million Americans traveling by automobile, INRIX, in collaboration with AAA, expects a majority of drivers will experience the greatest amount of congestion on Thursday, May 23 and Friday, May 24 in the late afternoon as commuters leave work early and mix with holiday travelers. For Seattle, the longest delays will happen on Memorial Day (Monday, May 27) as drivers return to the city, via I90 West, between 3:30 and 5:30 p.m.
|Metro Area||Worst Day for Travel||Worst Time for Travel||Delay Multiplier of Normal Trip|
|Atlanta||Thursday, May 23||4:30 – 6:30 PM||2.2x|
|Boston||Monday, May 27||3:45 – 5:45 PM||3.0x|
|Chicago||Friday, May 24||3:30 – 5:30 PM||1.6x|
|Detroit||Friday, May 24||2:30 – 4:30 PM||1.7x|
|Houston||Sunday, May 26||2:15 – 4:15 PM||1.0x|
|Los Angeles||Friday, May 24||4:30 – 6:30 PM||1.0x|
|New York||Thursday, May 23||4:45 – 6:45 PM||2.0x|
|San Francisco||Saturday, May 25||1:00 – 3:00 PM||1.6x|
|Seattle||Monday, May 27||3:30 – 5:30 PM||1.0x|
|Washington, D.C.||Monday, May 27||3:45 – 5:45 PM||3.0x|
Top Memorial Day travel destinations
Seattle ranks #6 on the most popular destinations behind Orlando, New York City and Las Vegas. Advance AAA bookings show Memorial Day weekend trips to warmer temperatures in Hawaii, Arizona, California and Tampa, Florida.
- Orlando, Florida
- New York, New York
- Las Vegas, Nevada
- Honolulu, Hawaii
- Anaheim, California
- Seattle, Washington
- Phoenix, Arizona
- Anchorage, Alaska
- Tampa, Florida
- San Francisco, California
For those travelers planning an international vacation for Memorial Day, Europe is the destination of choice. Rome, London, Dublin and Paris are the most popular locales for international vacations this Memorial Day weekend, with Vancouver, Canada, rounding out the top five.
According to Hertz, a more than 40-year AAA partner, the busiest airport pick-up locations for travelers renting a car this Memorial Day are expected to be Orlando (MCO), Los Angeles (LAX), Denver (DEN), Las Vegas (LAS), and San Francisco (SFO). The busiest day for rental pick-ups is expected to be Friday, May 24, with an average rental length of nearly five days, as travelers look to take advantage of the long holiday weekend.
Travelers to see relief in lower hotel and car rental costs
While road trippers are paying more to fill up their vehicles at the gas pump, some of that additional expense can be made up with lower prices on car rentals and hotels this Memorial Day. According to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, 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. Meanwhile, airfares are holding steady compared with last Memorial Day, for an average roundtrip price of $171.
AAA to rescue more than 353,000 motorists
AAA expects to be called on to rescue more than 353,000 motorists at the roadside this Memorial Day weekend. Dead batteries, flat tires and lockouts will be the leading reasons AAA members will experience car trouble.
AAA recommends motorist take their vehicles to a trusted repair facility to perform any needed maintenance before heading out on a road trip. 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.
AAA’s projections are based on economic forecasting and research by IHS Markit, a London-based business information provider. For the purposes of this forecast, the Memorial Day holiday travel period is defined as the five-day period from Thursday, May 23 to Monday, May 27. In cooperation with AAA, IHS Markit developed a unique methodology to forecast actual domestic travel volumes, using macroeconomic drivers such as employment; output; household net worth; asset prices including stock indices; interest rates; housing market indicators and variables related to travel and tourism, including prices of gasoline, airline travel and hotel stays. The complete AAA/IHS Markit 2019 Memorial Day holiday travel forecast is available here.