AAA: Memorial Day forecast points to sizzlin’ summer travel

MADISON, Wis. (May 18, 2022) – Memorial Day weekend is expected to be the busiest in three years, building on a travel resurgence that began earlier this spring. This year’s forecast marks the second highest single-year increase in travelers since 2010 (2021 was the highest), bringing volumes almost in line with pre-pandemic levels.

“By the looks of this Memorial Day travel forecast, the summer travel season is off to a sizzlin’ start,” said Debbie Haas, Vice President of Travel for AAA – The Auto Club Group. “People are more comfortable traveling now than any other time in the past two years, and travel bookings are a reflection of that. Reservations for flights, hotels, and cruises for Memorial Day weekend are twice as strong as last year’s holiday and that momentum will likely carry into the summer.”

AAA predicts nearly 741,000 Wisconsinites will travel 50 miles or more from home this Memorial Day weekend.  That’s a 7.4% increase over 2021.

WISCONSIN 2022 Memorial Day Holiday Travelers
 TotalAutomobileAirOther(Bus, Train, Cruise)
2022 (Forecast)740,946678,212 (92%)35,047 (4.7%)27,688 (3.7%)
2021 (Actual)690,029650,951 (94%)29,486 (4%)9,592 (1%)
2019 (Actual)827,443748,852 (90%)43,905 (5%)34,686 (4%)
Change (2021 to 2022)7.4%4.2%18.9%188.6%
Change (2019 to 2022)-10.4%-9.4%-20%-20%

Nationally, it’s a similar story. More than 39.2 million Americans will travel for the holiday weekend. The 8.3% increase from 2021 puts travel volumes in line with 2017 figures.

NATIONAL 2022 Memorial Day Holiday Travelers
 TotalAutomobileAirOther(Bus, Train, Cruise)
2022 (Forecast)39.2M34.9M (89%)3.01M (8%)1.33M (3%)
2021 (Actual)36.2M33.4M (92%)2.41M (7%)440,000 (1%)
2019 (Actual)42.8M37.6M (88%)3.22M (8%)1.90M (4%)
Change (2021 to 2022)8.3%4.6%25%199.9%
Change (2019 to 2022)-8.2%-7.3%-6.3%-29.6%

All Travel Modes Rebound

A recent AAA survey found that Wisconsinites are more comfortable traveling now than any time during the past two years.  That increased comfort is driving growth in all modes of transportation this year, especially air travel.

 “Surging demand and weather have challenged flight schedules since the beginning of the year,” Haas continued. “With the type of volume we anticipate going forward, we still recommend the safety net of a travel agent and travel insurance.  Both are lifesavers if something unexpectedly derails your travel plans.”

90% of Travelers will Drive, Despite Record-High Gas Prices

Despite historically high gas prices, 90% of Memorial Day travelers plan to travel by car and over 678,000 Wisconsinites are forecast to take a holiday road trip. That’s 4.2% more than last year’s holiday weekend.

Gas prices for Memorial Day are likely to be the highest on record. A combination of tightening global supplies and strong demand are the main culprits behind this unprecedented pain at the pump.

As of press time, the average price for gasoline in Wisconsin is $4.28 per gallon.  Previously, Memorial Day travelers found pump price averages of $2.80 in and in 2019, and $2.90 in 2018. The highest average price recorded on Memorial Day was $3.93 per gallon in 2008.

“Coming out of this 2-year pandemic, Wisconsinites are eager to travel again, and it doesn’t seem like record high gas prices or other inflationary pressures will stop them,” said Nick Jarmusz, director of public affairs for AAA – The Auto Club Group. “Many may look at cost cutting measures to offset the added expense, like driving shorter distances, staying in a less expensive hotel, or spending less on shopping, dining and entertainment.”

Travel Prices

  • Air—AAA finds that the average lowest airfare is 6% more than last year coming in at $184/ticket with Saturday being the most expensive day to fly and Monday the least.
  • Hotels—Mid-range hotel rates have increased about 42%, with the average lowest nightly rates ranging between approximately $199 – $257/night for AAA Approved Hotels.
  • Car Rentals—Daily car rental rates have decreased 16% compared to last year, with the average lowest rate coming in at $100/day.

Busiest Travel Days/Times

Air Travel – Based on AAA booking data, Thursday is shaping up to be the busiest day for air travel during the Memorial Day travel period (May 26 – May 30) with Monday being the lightest.

Road Trips – For those hitting the road, Thursday and Friday are anticipated to be peak traffic days.

AAA suggests reducing stress by:  

  • Arriving at the airport at least two hours early for domestic flights and three hours for international.
  • Booking a flight during non-peak travel periods to cut down on wait times.
  • Hitting the road when there’s less traffic and allowing extra time when traveling to your destination.
Daily Worst and Best Times for Auto Travel
DayWorst TimeBest Time
Thursday1:00-8:00pmBefore 6:00am or After 9:00pm
Friday12:00-7:00pmBefore 7:00am or After 9:00pm
Saturday1:00-6:00pmBefore 10:00am
Sunday1:00-4:00pmBefore 10:00am
Monday1:00-4:00pmBefore 11:00am
Source: INRIX

Prepare your Vehicle; AAA will rescue 388,000 Stranded Motorists

For the 34.9 million Americans hitting the road, it’s always advisable to get your vehicle road-trip ready with a full vehicle inspection. AAA expects to respond to over 388,000 calls for help over the Memorial Day holiday weekend. Get key components checked like the battery, fuel system, tires, brakes and fluid levels and make sure your vehicle’s emergency kit is fully stocked.

AAA’s Tips to Combat Higher Travel Prices

  • Book early. Airfares and hotel prices normally rise as the travel date gets closer and availability diminishes.
  • Be flexible with your dates and destinations. Select off-peak travel times, like when kids are in school. Prices are lower when there’s less demand.
  • Determine if it’s cheaper to drive or fly. This will depend on distance and number of travelers.Shop airfares, then use the AAA Gas Cost Calculator to estimate the cost of gasoline for your trip.  
  • Participate in loyalty programs and memberships like AAA, which can provide discounted rates on hotels, dining and more.
  • Use a travel agent. They have direct relationships with travel suppliers, enabling them to access travel pricing, inventory, and benefits you may not find on your own. 
  • Don’t forget travel insurance. If you miss your trip for some reason, travel insurance can help recoup deposits and other expenses you may not otherwise get back. If your flight is cancelled or delayed, there are policies that can help offset additional expenses you weren’t prepared for. You could also receive financial compensation for flight delays of as little as 3 hours.

Money-Saving Tips for Road Trippers

  • Leave early to avoid congestion and more time on the road.
  • Reduce food costs by packing snacks and water.
  • Consider staying at an all-inclusive resort. This limits driving and paying a la carte for entertainment and dining.
  • Compare gas prices with the free AAA Mobile app. Filling stations near airports and attractions often have the highest prices.
  • Determine how much you can expect to spend on gasoline during your trip by using AAA’s Gas Cost Calculator.
  • Use loyalty programs like the AAA membership, which provides discounted rates on hotels, dining, even gasoline.

Big Cities and Beaches are Top Destinations

AAA booking data reveals that big cities and beaches are top destinations this Memorial Day, both domestically and abroad:

2022 Top Memorial Day Destinations
U.S DestinationsInternational Destinations
Orlando, FLVancouver, Canada
Seattle, WADublin, Ireland
Miami, FLParis, France
Las Vegas, NVRome, Italy
Anaheim, CALondon, England
New York, NYCancun, Mexico
Denver, COAmsterdam, Netherlands
Anchorage, AKBarcelona, Spain
Boston, MANassau, Bahamas
Honolulu, HICalgary, Canada

Roads Will Be Busy

INRIX predicts drivers will encounter the longest travel delays before the holiday weekend, particularly during the afternoons on Thursday, May 26 and Friday, May 27. Drivers in major U.S. metros could experience double the travel times compared to a normal trip.

“Even with a significant increase in gas prices, we expect a large jump in holiday driving compared to the last few years,” says Bob Pishue, Transportation Analyst, INRIX. “Drivers should expect congestion on major roadways around big cities and popular destinations. Knowing when and where congestion will build can help drivers avoid the stress of sitting in traffic.”

Worst Corridors and Times to Travel
Metro AreaCorridorPeak Congestion% Over Normal
AtlantaI-85 S, Clairmont Rd to MLK Dr5/26/22, 3:30-5:30pm128%
BostonI-93 S, Purchase St to MA-245/26/22, 2:30-4:30pm110%
ChicagoI-290 E, IL-110 to Racine Ave5/26/22, 3:30-5:30pm131%
DetroitI-96 W, 6 Mile Rd to Walled Lake5/27/22, 3:00-5:00pm65%
HoustonI-69 N, I-610 to I-105/27/22, 4:45-6:45pm88%
Los AngelesI-5 S, Colorado St to Florence Ave5/27/22, 4:45-6:45pm123%
New YorkI-278 W, Long Island Express to 39th St5/26/22, 3:15-5:15pm161%
San FranciscoI-80 W, Gilman St to Civic Center5/26/22, 5:45-7:45pm105%
SeattleI-5 S, WA-18 to WA-75/27/22, 5:00-7:00pm112%
Washington DCI-95 S, I-495 to VA-1235/26/22, 3:45-5:45pm77%
Source: INRIX

Forecast Methodology:

In cooperation with AAA, IHS Markit– a world leader in critical information, analytics and expertise — developed a unique methodology to forecast actual domestic travel volumes. The economic variables used to forecast travel for the current holiday are leveraged from IHS Markit’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 prices of gasoline, airline travel and hotel stays. AAA and IHS Markit 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 IHS Markit 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 11, 2022.

Memorial Day Holiday Travel Period

For purposes of this forecast, the Memorial Day holiday travel period is defined as the five days from Thursday, May 26 to Monday, May 30. The five-day holiday length is consistent with previous holiday periods.