Economy Watch: Memorial Day Travel at Highest Volume in a Decade

AAA projects more than 38 million Americans will travel this Memorial Day weekend.

In a report to gladden the hearts of hoteliers and eateries nationwide, AAA projects more than 38 million Americans will travel this Memorial Day weekend, which is the second-highest travel volume on record for the holiday and the most since 2005. Spurred by the lowest gas prices in more than a decade, about 700,000 more people will travel compared to last year. For the purpose of travel estimates, the organization defines the Memorial Day holiday as Thursday, May 26, to Monday, May 30.

Nearly 34 million (89 percent) holiday travelers will drive to their Memorial Day destinations, an increase of 2.1 percent over last year, likely as a result of lower gas prices. Air travel is expected to increase 1.6 percent over last year, with 2.6 million Americans taking to the skies this Memorial Day. Travel by other modes of transportation, including cruises, trains and buses, will fall 2.3 percent, to 1.6 million travelers.

AAA estimated that Americans have saved more than $15 billion on gas so far this year compared to the same period in 2015, and prices are at the lowest levels in 11 years. The strong labor market and rising personal income are also motivating people to travel for Memorial Day this year, the organization posited.

According to the organization’s Leisure Travel Index, average airfares for the top 40 domestic flight routes will be 26 percent cheaper this Memorial Day than last, with an average roundtrip ticket costing $165. Hotel costs are in line with last Memorial Day, however. AAA Three Diamond Rated hotels will average $183, while a AAA Two Diamond Rated hotel will average $151 nightly. Daily car rental rates will average $62, or 3 percent less than last year.