ORLANDO, Fla. —This Memorial Day 2019 weekend will see the highest number of automobile travelers in history, according to AAA’s holiday travel forecast.
An estimated 37.6 million Americans will travel by road for the holiday weekend, which AAA defines as the five-day period from Thursday, May 23, to Monday, May 27. This number is up 3.5% from 2018 and breaks a previous record set in 2005. Nearly 9 in 10 travelers (88%) will drive to their destination this Memorial Day weekend, which is also the highest percentage in the history of the AAA forecast.
Record-breaking vehicle travel is expected despite the fact that gasoline prices have risen more than 30 cents per gallon (CPG) in the past two months, with a national average approaching the $3-per-gallon mark, according to AAA.
“When gas prices are expensive, travelers may shorten the distance of a road trip, eat out less or look for free activities,” said Jeanette Casselano, gas price expert for AAA, Orlando, Fla. “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.” The retail average on May 14, 2019, was $2.86 per gallon, only 1 CPG lower than the national average on this same date a year ago.
AAA also cites a strong if somewhat slowing economy, low unemployment and stable consumer optimism for the growth in travel for the Memorial Day 2019 holiday weekend.
INRIX, which partners with AAA on its holiday travel forecasts, expects the worst congestion May 23 and May 24 in the late afternoon, as commuters combine with travelers. Many large metro areas will see double to triple the typical travel times, with Boston and Washington, D.C., facing the highest increases, according to INRIX. AAA also partners with IHS Markit to forecast domestic travel volumes for its holiday travel outlooks, and it taps historical travel volume estimates from DK Shifflet.