Here’s How Busy This Memorial Day Weekend Could Be

us skies and roads busy ahead of memorial day weekend
Here’s How Busy This Memorial Day Weekend Could BeScott Olson - Getty Images

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  • AAA warns that Memorial Day weekend travel is projected to approach all-time high of 44 million travelers seen in 2005, with 43.8 million expected to travel 50 miles or more from home.

  • Travel volumes are expected to eclipse 2019 pre-pandemic levels, as the travel industry tries to keep up with rebound.

  • Gas prices have stayed largely steady for the past few months, but airports could see the most crowded Memorial Day weekend since 2005.

The first major travel weekend of the spring and summer season is coming up, and it could be one for the record books. So plan accordingly.


"We haven’t seen Memorial Day weekend travel numbers like these in almost 20 years," said Paula Twidale, Senior Vice President of AAA Travel.

AAA expects to see 43.8 million travelers head 50 miles or more from home, which would represent a bump of 4.1% over 2023, coming in second after an all-time high of 44 million travelers seen in 2005. So the projected number is just 200,000 shy of the 2005 record, with AAA compiling these records since the year 2000.

And it could be a preview of what we'll see around July 4.

"We’re projecting an additional one million travelers this holiday weekend compared to 2019, which not only means we’re exceeding pre-pandemic levels but also signals a very busy summer travel season ahead," Twidale added.

When it comes to traveling by car this will be one of the big surges compared to 2023, with AAA expecting 38.4 million to hit the road, which would represent the single highest number since tracking began in 2000. This should be a sobering thought.

AAA data from rental giant Hertz reveals that Atlanta, Boston, Las Vegas, Orlando, and Denver are seeing the highest rental demand this year. And as always, the busiest days for picking up rental cars will be the two days prior to the start of the weekend, which this year will be Thursday, May 23 and Friday, May 24.

Those flying to their destinations could see... a lot more people in airports compared to last year. That's because AAA expects to see 3.51 million air travelers during Memorial Day weekend, which will represent a massive 9% jump over 2019, which, lest we forget, was before the pandemic. This number would also represent a 4.8% bump over 2023.

And AAA isn't sugar-coating it.

"This will be the most crowded Memorial Day weekend at airports since 2005, when 3.64 million flew for the holiday as the travel industry finally rebounded post 9/11," the association said.

The good news for travelers compared to the past few years, is that gas prices coming into the Memorial Day weekend are holding rather steady, with the current national average sitting at $3.61 a gallon. And there isn't an obvious supply crunch of any sort on the horizon trying to throw curveballs to the retail gasoline market, at least before the hurricane season gets going.

Another bit of good news is that airplane tickets this year will be about the same as last year, or perhaps just 1% or 2% higher.

Of course, as during any big summer holiday travel weekend, it will be best to avoid mixing in with early morning commuters, with the worst travel times expected to be from noon till 6:00 p.m. on Thursday, May, 23, and from noon till 7 p.m. on Friday, May 24.

Late afternoons on the next three days, including Monday, should be no walks in the park either. So setting out early on Thursday, before rush hour, or after 7 p.m., should ease up your road travel experience.

Do you plan to travel by car this Memorial Day weekend? Let us know in the comments below.