AAA: Memorial Day forecast points to sizzlin’ summer travel

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From AAA Media Services

Memorial Day weekend is expected to be the busiest in three years, building on a travel resurgence that began earlier this spring.

This year’s forecast marks the second highest single-year increase in travelers since 2010 (2021 was the highest), bringing volumes almost in line with pre-pandemic levels. (Click here to read the report)

“By the looks of this Memorial Day travel forecast, the summer travel season is off to a sizzlin’ start,” said Debbie Haas, Vice President of Travel for AAA – The Auto Club Group. “People are more comfortable traveling now than any other time in the past two years, and travel bookings are a reflection of that. Reservations for flights, hotels, and cruises for Memorial Day weekend are twice as strong as last year’s holiday and that momentum will likely carry into the summer.”

AAA predicts nearly 1.2 million Georgians will travel 50 miles or more from home this Memorial Day weekend.  That’s a 7.5% increase over 2021, bringing travel volumes almost in line with those from 2018.

Nationally, it’s a similar story. More than 39.2 million Americans will travel for the holiday weekend. The 8.3% increase from 2021 puts travel volumes in line with 2017 figures.

All Travel Modes Rebound; Air Travel Nears Pre-Pandemic Levels

A recent AAA survey found that Georgians are more comfortable traveling now than any time during the past two years.  That increased comfort is driving growth in all modes of transportation this year, especially air travel.

Georgia air travel volumes are forecast to rise 26% from last year – the second-largest yearly increase in more than a decade. The 3 million Americans forecast to fly this Memorial Day weekend is just shy of 2019 levels. The number of Georgia air travelers are off by just 2.3% from 2019.

“Surging demand and weather have challenged flight schedules since the beginning of the year,” Haas continued. “With the type of volume we anticipate going forward, we still recommend the safety net of a travel agent and travel insurance.  Both are lifesavers if something unexpectedly derails your travel plans.”

90% of Travelers will Drive, Despite Record-High Gas Prices

Despite historically high gas prices, 90% of Memorial Day travelers plan to travel by car. Over 1.1 million Georgians are forecast to take a holiday road trip. That’s 4.9% more than last year’s holiday weekend.

Gas prices for Memorial Day are likely to be the highest on record. A combination of tightening global supplies and strong demand are the main culprits behind this unprecedented pain at the pump.

As of press time, the average price for gasoline in Georgia is $4.15 per gallon.  Previously, Memorial Day travelers found pump price averages of $2.91 in 2021, $2.61 in 2019, and $2.84 in 2018. The highest average price recorded on Memorial Day was $3.91 per gallon in 2008.

“Coming out of this 2-year pandemic, Georgians are eager to travel again, and it doesn’t seem like record high gas prices or other inflationary pressures will stop them,” said Montrae Waiters, spokeswoman, AAA – The Auto Club Group. “Many may look at cost cutting measures to offset the added expense, like driving shorter distances, staying in a less expensive hotel, or spending less on shopping, dining and entertainment.”

Travel Prices

  • Compare pricing on AAA’s Leisure Travel Index
  • Air—AAA finds that the average lowest airfare is 6% more than last year coming in at $184/ticket. Saturday is the most expensive day to fly and Monday is the least.
  • HotelsMid-range hotel rates have increased about 42%, with the average lowest nightly rates ranging between approximately $199 – $257/night for AAA Approved Hotels.
  • Car RentalsDaily car rental rates have decreased 16% compared to last year, with the average lowest rate coming in at $100/day.

Busiest Travel Days/Times

Air Travel

Based on AAA booking data, Thursday is shaping up to be the busiest day for air travel during the Memorial Day travel period (May 26 – May 30) with Monday being the lightest.

AAA suggests: 

  • Arriving at the airport at least two hours early for domestic flights and three hours for international.
  • Booking a flight during non-peak travel periods to cut down on wait times.
  • Hitting the road when there’s less traffic and allowing extra time when traveling to your destination.

Road Trips

For those hitting the road, Thursday and Friday are anticipated to be peak traffic days.

INRIX predicts drivers will encounter the longest travel delays before the holiday weekend, particularly during the afternoons on Thursday, May 26 and Friday, May 27. Drivers in major U.S. metros could experience double the travel times compared to a normal trip.

Prepare your Vehicle; AAA will rescue 388,000 Stranded Motorists

For the 34.9 million Americans hitting the road, it’s always advisable to get your vehicle road-trip ready with a full vehicle inspection. AAA expects to respond to over 388,000 calls for help over the Memorial Day holiday weekend. Get key components checked like the battery, fuel system, tires, brakes and fluid levels and make sure your vehicle’s emergency kit is fully stocked.

AAA’s Tips to Combat Higher Travel Prices

  • Book early. Airfares and hotel prices normally rise as the travel date gets closer and availability diminishes.
  • Be flexible with your dates and destinations. Select off-peak travel times, like when kids are in school. Prices are lower when there’s less demand.
  • Determine if it’s cheaper to drive or fly. This will depend on distance and number of travelers. Shop airfares, then use the AAA Gas Cost Calculator to estimate the cost of gasoline for your trip.  
  • Participate in loyalty programs and memberships like AAA, which can provide discounted rates on hotels, dining and more.
  • Use a travel agent. They have direct relationships with travel suppliers, enabling them to access travel pricing, inventory, and benefits you may not find on your own. 
  • Don’t forget travel insurance. If you miss your trip for some reason, travel insurance can help recoup deposits and other expenses you may not otherwise get back. If your flight is cancelled or delayed, there are policies that can help offset additional expenses you weren’t prepared for. You could also receive financial compensation for flight delays of as little as 3 hours.

Money-Saving Tips for Road Trippers

  • Leave early to avoid congestion and more time on the road.
  • Reduce food costs by packing snacks and water.
  • Consider staying at an all-inclusive resort. This limits driving and paying a la carte for entertainment and dining.
  • Compare gas prices with the free AAA Mobile app. Filling stations near airports and attractions often have the highest prices.
  • Use AAA’s Gas Cost Calculator to determine how much you can expect to spend on gasoline during your trip.

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