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Hello, summer: Nearly 43 million Americans to travel Memorial Day weekend

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Mon, May 20th 2019 07:00 am

AAA forecasts the most holiday road trippers on record; drive times could three times longer

By AAA of Western and Central New York

Nearly 43 million Americans will start their summers on a high note with a Memorial Day weekend getaway! This long holiday weekend, marking the unofficial start of summer vacation season, will see the second-highest travel volume on record since AAA began tracking holiday travel volumes dating back to 2000 – only trailing the bar set in 2005. Overall, an additional 1.5 million more people will take to the nation’s roads, rails and runways compared with last year, a 3.6% increase.

Despite a rising national gas price average that is inching closer to the $3-per-gallon mark, the vast majority of holiday travelers will drive to their destinations. For these motorists, INRIX, a global transportation analytics company, expects travel delays on major roads could be more than three times longer than normal during evening commutes.

“Americans are eagerly anticipating the start of summer, and expensive gas prices won’t keep them home this Memorial Day weekend,” said Carol DiOrio, vice president of travel at AAA WCNY. “Consumer spending remains strong, helped by solid job and income growth. Families continue to prioritize spending their disposable incomes on travel, and near-record numbers of them are looking forward to doing just that for Memorial Day.”

By the Numbers: 2019 Memorial Day Holiday Travel Forecast

•Automobiles: The vast majority of travelers – 37.6 million – will hit the road, the most on record for the holiday and 3.5% more than last year.

•Planes: 3.25 million people will take to the skies, 4.8% more than last year, second only to 2005.

•Trains, Buses and Cruise Ships: Travel across these sectors will increase by 3.8% to 1.9 million passengers.

In New York state, 2.65 million people will be traveling for the holiday, an increase of 3.5% from 2018. A record 2.39 million will be traveling by car and nearly 183,000 by air. Moreover, 73,000 will be traveling by other modes of transportation.

Drivers Beware: Worst Times to Hit Road

For the 37.6 million Americans traveling by automobile, INRIX, in collaboration with AAA, predicts 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. Several major U.S. metros could experience double the travel times compared to a normal trip, while New Yorkers and Washington, D.C., could see three times the delay.

“Drivers in the most congested metros should expect much worse conditions than normal,” said Trevor Reed, transportation analyst for INRIX. “Travelers should anticipate delays to start on Wednesday and continue through Memorial Day. Our advice to drivers is to avoid the morning and evening commuting times or plan alternate routes.”

Higher Gas Prices Won’t Keep Holiday Travelers Home

Gas prices have increased by more than 30 cents in the past two months with the national and state averages approaching $3 per gallon (National: $2.86; NYS: $2.96 on May 14), which is on par with prices this time last year (National: $2.87; NYS: $3.01 on May 14, 2018). However, 88% of travelers will choose to drive to their Memorial Day destinations this year, the most on record.

“When gas prices are expensive, travelers may shorten the distance of a road trip, eat out less or look for free activities,” DiOrio said. “But, overall, prices are very similar to this time last year and, like then, they aren’t letting that deter them from taking summer road trips.”

Travelers to See Relief in Lower Hotel & 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.

Top Memorial Day Travel Destinations

Orlando, New York City and Las Vegas can expect an influx of travelers for the holiday. These are the top destinations in the U.S. this Memorial Day weekend, based on advance AAA Travel bookings:

Orlando

  • New York City
  • Las Vegas
  • Honolulu
  • Anaheim, California
  • Seattle
  • Phoenix
  • Anchorage
  • Tampa, Florida
  • San Francisco

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.

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. Across New York state, AAA expects to come to the rescue of at least 15,000 motorists during the Memorial Day travel period.

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.

Methodology: 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.

As upstate New York’s largest member services organization, AAA Western and Central New York provides more than 880,000 members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, AAA has been a leading advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. Visit AAA at www.AAA.com.

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