44 Million Traveling Memorial Day Weekend, Second Most in History

44 Million Traveling Memorial Day Weekend, Second Most in History

Vacation News » Orlando Edition | By Michael Gerrity | May 24, 2024 9:50 AM ET

Orlando, Seattle, New York City and Las Vegas are top destinations

AAA is forecasting that 43.8 million people will travel 50 miles or more from home over the Memorial Day holiday period. This year's number of travelers represents a 4% increase from last year, approaching the 2005 record of 44 million Memorial Day travelers.

Road trips are anticipated to reach a new high, with AAA projecting 38.4 million people traveling by car over Memorial Day weekend. This marks the highest number since AAA began tracking in 2000. The number of drivers is up 4% from last year and 1.9% from 2019. Many find traveling by car appealing due to its convenience and flexibility. According to car rental company Hertz, Orlando, Denver, Atlanta, Boston, and Las Vegas are seeing the highest rental demand, with the busiest pick-up days expected to be Thursday, May 23, and Friday, May 24.

"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."

Gas prices this Memorial Day weekend are expected to be similar to last year's, with the national average around $3.57. Although prices rose this spring, they have remained relatively steady in recent weeks. However, prices may increase as the summer driving season begins. The cost of oil remains a wildcard, influenced by ongoing conflicts in the Middle East and Ukraine.

Airports are preparing for a surge in travelers. AAA expects 3.51 million air travelers this holiday weekend, a 4.8% increase from last year and a 9% increase from 2019. This will be the busiest Memorial Day weekend at airports since 2005, when 3.64 million people flew for the holiday, marking a post-9/11 travel industry rebound. Airfare prices are comparable to last year, with AAA booking data showing a 1% to 2% increase for domestic flights. Airfare costs vary based on destination, number of stops, and fare class. Passengers booking nonstop flights with seat selection and carry-on bags included will likely pay more than those opting for basic economy with a layover.

Nearly two million people are expected to travel by other means, including buses, cruises, and trains. AAA projects 1.9 million people will use these modes of transportation, a 5.6% increase from 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."

Top Memorial Day Weekend Travel Destinations in 2024

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.

2024 Memorial Day Top Destinations.jpg

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