Industry NewsAAA: 43.8 Million Travelers Expected to Go 50 Miles or More for...

AAA: 43.8 Million Travelers Expected to Go 50 Miles or More for Memorial Day Weekend

WASHINGTON, D.C.—AAA projects 43.8 million travelers will head 50 miles or more from home over the Memorial Day holiday travel period. This year’s total number of travelers is a 4 percent increase over last year and comes close to matching 2005’s record of 44 million Memorial Day travelers.

“We haven’t seen Memorial Day weekend travel numbers like these in almost 20 years,” said Paula Twidale, senior vice president of AAA Travel. “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.”

Road trips are expected to set a record. AAA projects 38.4 million people will travel by car over Memorial Day weekend, the highest number for the holiday since AAA began tracking in 2000. The number of drivers this year is up 4 percent compared to last year and 1.9 percent higher than in 2019. Traveling by car is appealing for many people because of the convenience and flexibility it provides. AAA car rental partner Hertz says Orlando, Denver, Atlanta, Boston, and Las Vegas are the cities displaying the highest rental demand, with the busiest pick-up days projected to be Thursday, May 23, and Friday, May 24.

This Memorial Day weekend, drivers can expect similar gas prices as last year when the national average was roughly $3.57. Pump prices rose this spring but have held somewhat steady in recent weeks. Prices may creep higher as the summer driving season gets underway. The wildcard remains the cost of oil, and unlike last year, there are now two wars that could roil the oil market.

Airports are bracing for a spike in travelers. AAA expects 3.51 million air travelers this holiday weekend, an increase of 4.8 percent over last year and 9 percent jump compared to 2019. 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. This Memorial Day weekend, air ticket prices are comparable to last year. AAA booking data shows a 1 percent to 2 percent increase in prices for domestic flights. Several factors play into how much travelers pay for airfare, including destination, number of stops, and fare class. For example, passengers who book nonstop flights with seat selection and carry-on bags included will likely pay more than those who select basic economy with a layover.

Nearly two million people are expected to travel by other modes of transportation, including buses, cruises, and trains. AAA projects 1.9 million people will take these other modes of transportation, an increase of 5.6 percent compared to last year. “This category took the biggest hit during the pandemic with fewer people taking public transportation or not cruising at all,” Twidale said. “Now—five years later—we’re back to 2019 numbers. Travel demand has been soaring, and long holiday weekends create the perfect windows for getaways.”

Best/Worst Times to Drive and Peak Congestion by Metro

INRIX, a provider of transportation data and insights, says drivers leaving Thursday or Friday should hit the road early to avoid mixing with commuters. Travelers going back home on Sunday or Monday should avoid the afternoon hours when return trips will peak.

“Travel times are expected to be up to 90 percent longer than normal. Travelers should stay up to date on traffic apps, 511 services, and local news stations to avoid sitting in traffic longer than necessary,” said Bob Pishue, transportation analyst at INRIX.

Top Destinations

This Memorial Day weekend, travelers are seeking theme parks and entertainment venues in Orlando, New York, Las Vegas, and Southern California. Seattle, Anchorage, and Vancouver rank high because of the popularity of Alaska cruises this time of year. Florida beaches and cruise ports will also be packed. European cities dominate the international list. The top 10 domestic and international destinations below are based on AAA booking data.


  1. Orlando, Florida
  2. Seattle, Washington
  3. New York, New York
  4. Las Vegas, Nevada
  5. Anaheim/Los Angeles, California
  6. Denver, Colorado
  7. Anchorage, Alaska
  8. Fort Lauderdale, Florida
  9. Miami, Florida
  10. Boston, Massachusetts


  1. Rome, Italy
  2. Vancouver, B.C., Canada
  3. London, England
  4. Paris, Fance
  5. Dublin, Ireland
  6. Amsterdam, Netherlands
  7. Athens, Greece
  8. Barcelona, Spain
  9. St. George, Bermuda
  10. Edinburgh, Scotland
Travel Trends

As travelers make plans for summer and beyond, AAA Travel has identified the following trends:

  • Bucket Lists: Travelers taking once-in-a-lifetime trips
  • Milestones: Families booking anniversary, retirement, and family reunion trips
  • Asia: More travelers interested in visiting Asia, especially Japan
  • Solo Trips: More people, especially women, interested in traveling by themselves
  • Luxury Vacations: More travelers seeking high-end cruises and tours
  • Trains: Many travelers interested in rail vacations across New England, Canada, and Europe
  • Adventure in Nature: Travelers booking trips to Antarctica, Africa, and the South Pacific
Travel Agent Survey

A recent survey of AAA travel agents highlights topics travelers are frequently discussing when booking trips:

  • Travel Insurance: 51 percent of agents say more travelers are interested in protecting their trips
  • Types of Vacations: AAA travel agents say these are among the types of vacations travelers are most interested in:
    • 77 percent of agents say ocean cruises
    • 70 percent of agents say all-inclusive vacations
    • 67 percent of agents say river cruises