With 42.3 million Americans hitting the road, Memorial Day travel will surpass 2019 demand
If you think Memorial Day weekend might be a busy one for travel, you’d be right. Before you pack a suitcase and hop in the car or take to the sky, here's what to expect by the numbers.
Busy weekend in the sky
Demand for flights on Memorial Day weekend is up nearly 10% compared to last year, according to recently released Expedia flight data. Top domestic destinations are New York, Los Angeles and Las Vegas. International flight sticker shock is real, especially when searching for cities like Rome and London.
According to AAA, air travel will exceed pre-pandemic levels for the same time frame. Nearly 3.4 million travelers are expected to fly to their destination this Memorial Day weekend, an increase of 11% over last year.
Meanwhile, airports are still understaffed, so the increase in passengers could mean longer lines at security checkpoints and even some challenges when it comes to getting the food you want in the terminals or even spots in the lounges.
On the plus side, the Transportation Security Administration has just rolled out new facial recognition software at select airports in the U.S., though it's yet to be seen if it will speed up the wait times.
“This is expected to be the third busiest Memorial Day weekend since 2000, when AAA started tracking holiday travel,” Paula Twidale, senior vice president of AAA Travel, said. “More Americans are planning trips and booking them earlier, despite inflation. This summer travel season could be one for the record books, especially at airports.”
Related: How to find cheap flights
More travelers are hitting the road
If you plan to drive this holiday weekend, prepare to share the road with 37.1 million other Americans with the same idea. AAA reports road trips are up 6% over last year — an increase of more than 2 million.
Likely not surprisingly, Friday, May 26, is expected to be the busiest day on the roads during the long weekend, according to the transportation analysts at Inrix.
If you do need to hit the road that day, the recommendation is to do so early in the morning or after 6 p.m. to avoid the most congested times. Major metro areas like Boston, New York, Seattle and Tampa are projected to have some of the nation's worst traffic, with travel times doubling compared to normal.
If you want to avoid that rush, Saturday and Sunday of the long weekend are also expected to have the lightest amount of road traffic.
Although it will be busy, there’s good news for those opting for a road trip — average gas prices are down more than a dollar per gallon compared to last year. According to AAA, the current regular gas price average is $3.53 per gallon, while a year ago, it was $4.56.
We are also seeing luxury hotel pricing in the U.S. is easing somewhat, though that may not play out specifically for this particular in-demand weekend.
Related: Top tips for how to save on gas
Travel tips from TPG
You can't control that tens of millions will travel out of town this weekend, but there's a lot within your control to make your trip a success. Here are some curated travel tips from the TPG team of travel experts.
- Pack your patience and arrive early in case there are lines for checking bags or going through security.
- Get TSA PreCheck or Clear to expedite your security screening. If you have both, you can choose the shorter line or use one that layers in both.
- Travel with only a carry-on. It will save you money on baggage fees if you don’t carry a cobranded airline credit card or hold elite status. You also won’t have to worry about losing your luggage or facing challenges in the case of irregular flight operations.
- Can’t carry on? Use a tracking device for your bag, like an Apple AirTag, so you know where it is even if the airline doesn't. It has saved many bags for TPG writers and readers.
- Consider taking the train instead of flying or driving. Fares might be better, it's more scenic, less hassle than the airport, and there’s a better baggage allowance.
- Take the first flight of the day. Usually, this means your plane has arrived the night before, so there’s less chance of delays. Flying nonstop is also a great way to try and avoid any unexpected layovers.
- Have a backup plan. Using points and miles to secure a backup flight if your original plan goes sideways might save your vacation if your travel plans are really tight. Just be sure to cancel before departure to get your miles redeposited in your account.
- Use a credit card that carries travel protections like trip interruption and cancellation insurance. Even if you are traveling on an award ticket, if you pay the taxes on the ticket with one of these cards, you are covered.
Read on for more travel tips:
- Key travel tips you need to know — whether you're a beginner or expert traveler
- The best travel credit cards
- The 18 best places to travel in 2023
- 6 real-life strategies you can use when your flight is canceled or delayed
- 8 of the best credit cards for general travel purchases
- 13 must-have items the TPG team can't travel without