37 million expected to travel Memorial Day weekend, 1 million of them Georgians

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ATLANTA—AAA expects a significant rebound in the number of Americans planning to travel this Memorial Day holiday weekend. More than 37 million people are expected to travel 50 miles or more between May 27 and May 31. That’s a 60% increase from last year, when only 23 million traveled, the lowest on record since AAA began recording in 2000.

In Georgia, more than 1 million residents are forecast to take a trip during the holiday weekend. That’s a 62% increase from last year, when fewer than 720 thousand residents traveled, due to the pandemic.

Georgia Memorial Day Travel Volumes
Total Automobile Air Other
2021 1.16 million 1.1 million 82,156 3,568
2020 720,810 705,993 12,083 2,735
2019 1.31 million 1.2 million 104,187 33,460

 

“A year’s worth of pent-up demand is being unleashed this summer, as Americans anticipate the kickoff to the season,” said Debbie Haas, Vice President of Travel for AAA – The Auto Club Group. “Travel bookings with AAA – The Auto Club Group have surged recently, setting the stage for what should be a busy holiday weekend and an exciting summer.”

“For many people, this will be their first summer vacation in two years, and things will look a little different,” Haas continued. “Because of the pandemic, many theme parks and hotels are running at reduced capacity, and some services are not currently available. Cruise lines are also accepting bookings, but their policies may vary based on whether you’re vaccinated. That’s why we encourage travelers to plan ahead and work with a trusted travel advisor, to ensure they get the best advice and value for their vacation.”

Significant Increases in AAA Travel Bookings

AAA Travel has noted significant increases in online traffic and bookings on AAA.com, particularly for hotels and car rentals, heading into the summer travel season. AAA booking data reveal that domestic travel and road trips remain the biggest drivers of travel recovery in the near term. Orlando and Las Vegas are top Memorial Day destinations this year, both for AAA Travel bookings and TripTik road trip searches.

The top destinations include the following:

Road Trips:

  1. Las Vegas, NV
  2. Orlando, FL
  3. Myrtle Beach, SC
  4. Denver, CO
  5. Nashville, TN

AAA Travel Bookings:

  1. Orlando, FL
  2. Las Vegas, NV
  3. Honolulu, HI
  4. Anchorage, AK
  5. Colorado Springs, CO

When planning a trip, refer to the new AAA Digital TourBook guides, now available for destinations across the U.S., Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean at TourBook.AAA.com. Available on smartphone, tablet or desktop, the new interactive guides feature detailed destination information, must-see attractions, sample itineraries and more.

Huge increase in air travel expected, but most Memorial Day travelers to take road trips 

With 34 million Americans planning Memorial Day road trips, auto travel is expected to increase 52% compared to 2020.  Nearly 12 million more Americans will travel by car this holiday than in 2020, though this is still 9% less than in 2019. More than 9 in 10 Memorial Day travelers will drive to their destinations, as many Americans continue to substitute road trips for travel via planes, trains and other modes of transportation. The TripTik travel planner on AAA.com and in the AAA App include COVID travel restrictions for destinations, helping travelers plan road trips based on the latest requirements.

After a historically low year of air travel in 2020, this Memorial Day will see nearly 2.5 million Americans boarding airplanes, nearly six times more than last year (+577%). Still, 750,000 or 23% fewer people will take to the skies this holiday compared to 2019. AAA reminds air travelers that masks are required in all airports and on flights.

Meanwhile, just 237,000 Americans are expected to travel by other modes, including bus and train, this Memorial Day. This is the second-lowest volume on record, higher only than the 185,000 who traveled in 2020. In 2021, travel via these modes will be 88% below 2019 levels.

2021 Memorial Day Holiday Travelers (National Numbers)
Total Automobile Air Other

(Bus, Train, Cruise)

2021 (Forecast) 37.1M 34.4M 2.5M 237,000
2020 (Actual)* 23.1M 22.6M 363,000 185,000
2019 (Actual) 42.8M 37.6M 3.2M 1.9M
Change (2019 to 2021) −13.3% −8.7% −23.4% −87.5%
Change (2020 to 2021) +60% +52.4% +577.5% +28.0%

*AAA did not issue a Memorial Day holiday travel forecast in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, actual travel volumes were recorded after the holiday for comparison purposes this year.

Drivers Beware: Worst times to hit the road

INRIX predicts drivers will encounter the longest travel delays before the holiday weekend, particularly during the afternoons on Thursday, May 27 and Friday, May 28. Drivers in several major U.S. metros could experience double the travel times compared to a normal trip, while Atlanta, Houston and New York drivers could see more than three times the delay on the busiest corridors.

“Although vehicle trips are down as much as 40% in some metros, afternoon congestion is nearly back to pre-pandemic levels. With the increase of holiday travelers to the typical afternoon commute, drivers in the larger metros should expect longer delays heading into the holiday weekend,” said Bob Pishue, transportation analyst, INRIX. “Travelers should anticipate delays to start on Wednesday and continue through Memorial Day. Our advice to drivers is to avoid the evening commute times and plan alternate routes.”

Metro Area Worst Corridor Worst Day Worst Time Delay Multiplier
Atlanta I-85 Clockwise;
Hwy 81 to Augusta Rd
Thursday, May 27 3:30–5:30 PM 3.0x
Boston I-95 South;
MA-9 to Coney St
Thursday, May 27 3:00–5:00 PM 1.2x
Chicago I-290 West;
Morgan St to Wolf Rd
Thursday, May 27 2:45–4:45 PM 1.2x

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