Airfares Are Up, But Memorial Day Travelers Seem Undeterred
AAA expects a 7% increase in Americans traveling 50 miles or more from their homes during Memorial Day weekend compared to 2022, as pandemic-era travel continues to grow.
Some 37.1 million Americans are expected to drive to their destinations during Memorial Day weekend, according to AAA, which represents an increase of 2 million travelers compared to 2022.
The national average gas price at the moment is trending below May 2022 levels by over $1.00, but prices could climb a bit as the busy travel weekend approaches.
Memorial Day weekend is just around the corner, ready to kick off the traditional spring and summer travel season that will stretch through Labor Day.
Just how hectic could travel turn out this year for Memorial Day weekend?
"This is expected to be the third busiest Memorial Day weekend since 2000, when AAA started tracking holiday travel," said Paula Twidale, Senior Vice President of AAA Travel. "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."
In fact, AAA predicts a 7% increase in Americans traveling 50 miles or more from their homes during that weekend compared to 2022, making the three-day holiday the busiest since the start of the pandemic. Air travel alone during this month's holiday is expected to see an 11% increase, with 3.4 million Americans expected to fly to their destinations—a number that's expected to eclipse 2019 numbers by 5.4%.
This factor alone is expected to make the holiday weekend the busiest for airline passengers since 2005, even given the higher airfare prices now in abundance around the country.
If there is one element that will make travel easier this year compared to 2022, it's much lower gasoline prices, now under significantly less stress from global events.
AAA expects 37.1 million Americans to drive to their destinations during Memorial Day weekend, which would represent 2 million more road travelers than in 2022.
"With lower fuel prices and more travelers on the road compared to last year, drivers should expect long delays this holiday weekend, especially in and around major metros as commuters mix with Memorial Day travelers," said Bob Pishue, transportation analyst at INRIX.
As usual, traffic out of large cities on the afternoons of Thursday, May 25, and Friday, May 26, will be best avoided (if at all possible), as will return trips on the afternoons of Monday, May 29, and Tuesday May 30.
But driving won't be a bad bet this year simply due to how much airfares have grown in price. AAA data reveals a 40% increase in airline ticket prices this year to top destinations like Orlando, Las Vegas, and New York City. International travel is also expected to surge 250% compared to the same holiday weekend in 2022.
With the national average gas price sitting at $3.53 currently, driving to your destination may not be a bad bet, especially given the fact that airlines and rental car companies are still reporting understaffing issues in the wake of pandemic-related disruptions.
"Increasing demand for gasoline would usually drive pump prices higher, but the cost for oil has remained low lately, so drivers should benefit from stable pump prices as Memorial Day drawers near," AAA spokesperson Andrew Gross said last week.
Are you planning to travel by car or by plane, or another mode of transport if at all for Memorial Day weekend? Let us know in the comments below.