Nearly 44 Million Travelers Leaving Town for Unofficial Start of Summer – Z93 Country (2024)

AAA projects 43.8 million travelers will head 50 miles or more from their homes over the Memorial Day holiday travel period*. This year’s total number of travelers is a 4% increase over last year and comes close to matching 2005’s record of 44 million Memorial Day travelers.

“Long holiday weekends like Memorial Day are the perfect way to kick off the summer travel season and Americans will be traveling in record-breaking numbers this year,” said Bevi Powell, senior vice president, AAA East Central. “Whether it’s a family road trip, a luxury cruise, or a train trip across New England, travelers are making choices that will ensure they have the trip of a lifetime.”

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% compared to last year and is 1.9% higher than in 2019. Traveling by car is appealing for many people because of its convenience and flexibility. AAA car rental partner Hertz said Orlando, Denver, Atlanta, Boston and Las Vegas are the cities displaying the highest rental demand, with the busiest pickup days projected to be Thursday, May 23 and Friday, May 24.

East South Central Region Memorial Day Forecast Highlights:
*Region includes Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi.

Method of TravelTotal TravelersIncrease from 2023
Automobile1.9 million3.2%
Air travel245,0005.5%
Other (bus, train, ship, etc.)75,0004.1%
Region Total2.2 million3.5%

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 steady in recent weeks. Prices might creep higher as the summer driving season gets underway. The wildcard remains the cost of oil. Wars in the Middle East and Ukraine could cause concern in 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% over last year and a 9% 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% to 2% 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 2 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% compared to last year.

Best/Worst Times to Drive
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% 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.

Best and Worst Times to Travel by Car
DateWorst Travel TimeBest Travel Time
Thursday, May 23Noon – 6 p.m.Before 11 a.m., After 7 p.m.
Friday, May 24Noon – 7 p.m.Before 11 a.m., After 8 p.m.
Saturday, May 252 – 5p.m.Before 1 p.m., After 6 p.m.
Sunday, May 263- 7p.m.Before 1 p.m.
Monday, May 273- 7p.m.After 7 p.m.

Source: 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.

Orlando, FLRome, Italy
Seattle, WAVancouver, B.C., Canada
New York, NYLondon, England
Las Vegas, NVParis, France
Anaheim/Los Angeles, CADublin, Ireland
Denver, COAmsterdam, Netherlands
Anchorage, AKAthens, Greece
Fort Lauderdale, FLBarcelona, Spain
Miami, FLSt. George, Bermuda
Boston, MAEdinburgh, 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 Advisors highlights topics travelers are frequently discussing when booking trips, including:

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

In cooperation with AAA, S&P Global Market Intelligence (SPGMI) developed a unique methodology to forecast actual domestic travel volumes. The economic variables used to forecast travel for the current holiday are leveraged from SPGMI’s proprietary databases. These data include 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 gasoline prices, airline travel, and hotel stays. AAA and SPGMI have quantified holiday travel volumes going back to 2000.

Historical travel volume estimates come from DK SHIFFLET’s TRAVEL PERFORMANCE/MonitorSM. The PERFORMANCE/MonitorSM is a comprehensive study measuring the travel behavior of U.S. residents. DK SHIFFLET contacts over 50,000 U.S. households each month to obtain detailed travel data, resulting in the unique ability to estimate visitor volume and spending, identify trends, and forecast U.S. travel behavior, all after the trips have been taken.

The travel forecast is reported in person-trips. In particular, AAA and SPGMI forecast the total U.S. holiday travel volume and expected mode of transportation. The travel forecast presented in this report was prepared the week of April 15, 2024.

*Memorial Day Holiday Travel Period
For this forecast, the Memorial Day holiday travel period is defined as the five-day period from Thursday, May 23 to Monday, May 27, 2024.

AAA Travel Agent Survey Methodology
AAA clubs distributed surveys to a random sample of their travel agents between March 18 and March 29, 2024 to understand recent traveler trends over the previous 60 days (January/February 2024). 186 AAA agent responses were collected from 13 AAA clubs (representing 97% of AAA membership overall as of February 2024).

About S&P Global
S&P Global (NYSE: SPGI) provides essential intelligence. We enable governments, businesses, and individuals with the right data, expertise, and connected technology so that they can make decisions with conviction. From helping our customers assess new investments to guiding them through ESG and energy transition across supply chains, we unlock new opportunities, solve challenges, and accelerate progress for the world. We are widely sought after by many of the world’s leading organizations to provide credit ratings, benchmarks, analytics, and workflow solutions in the global capital, commodity, and automotive markets. With every one of our offerings, we help the world’s leading organizations plan for tomorrow today. For more information,

About DKSA
DK SHIFFLET boasts the industry’s most complete database on U.S. resident travel both in the U.S. and worldwide. Data is collected monthly from a U.S. representative sample, adding over 60,000 traveling households annually, and is used daily by leading travel organizations and their strategic planning groups. DK SHIFFLET is an MMGY Global company.

Founded in 2004, INRIX pioneered intelligent mobility solutions by transforming big data from connected devices and vehicles into mobility insights. This revolutionary approach enabled INRIX to become one of the leading providers of data and analytics into how people move. By empowering cities, businesses, and people with valuable insights, INRIX is helping to make the world smarter, safer, and greener. With partners and solutions spanning across the entire mobility ecosystem, INRIX is uniquely positioned at the intersection of technology and transportation – whether it’s keeping road users safe, improving traffic signal timing to reduce delay and greenhouse gasses, optimizing last mile delivery, or helping uncover market insights. Learn more at

AAA East Central is a not-for-profit association with 70local offices in Kentucky, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia serving 2.7 million members. News releases are available at Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

Nearly 44 Million Travelers Leaving Town for Unofficial Start of Summer – Z93 Country (2024)
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