Record Car Travel Expected This Memorial Day Weekend

Travelers should prepare for heavy traffic this Memorial Day weekend, as a record number of drivers are expected to hit the road for long weekend vacations.

Altogether, 43.8 million travelers are projected to travel at least 50 miles from their homes from May 23-27, 2024, according to a report from the American Automobile Association (AAA), a four percent increase from one year ago.

Out of these total travelers, 38.4 million are expected to travel by car, a record highest number for the travel period since AAA began tracking the data in 2000. This projected number is a four percent increase compared to last year and nearly two percent higher than in 2019.

“We haven’t seen Memorial Day weekend travel numbers like these in almost 20 years,” AAA Travel’s Senior Vice President Paula Twidale said in the report. “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.” 

With so many cars on the road, transportation data firm INRIX suggests that drivers leaving town Thursday or Friday should begin their journey before 11AM to avoid morning commuter traffic. Likewise, drivers returning home on Sunday or Monday should hit the road in the morning to avoid peak afternoon return times after 1PM.

“Travel times are expected to be up to 90% longer than normal. Travelers should stay up to date on traffic apps, 511 services, and local news stations to avoid sitting in traffic longer than necessary,” INRIX transportation analyst Bob Pishue said.

Tampa, Florida is expected to experience the biggest traffic increases—up to 88 percent more along I-75 S on Sunday morning. Not far behind is Los Angeles, with a projected 84 percent traffic increase on I-5 N on Thursday night.

Airports are also preparing for a travel spike, as AAA projects that 3.51 million travelers will travel by air over the holiday weekend, up almost five percent from last year and a nine percent jump from 2019. This number marks the most crowded Memorial Day weekend at airports since 2005, when the air travel industry finally rebounded after 9/11.

Another nearly two million people are anticipated to travel by other modes of travel, like buses, cruises and trains, according to AAA, an almost 6 percent increase from 2023.

Read AAA’s full Memorial Day Weekend travel forecast here.

Written by
Peter Volpe

Journalism student at The Ohio State University with a passion for culture and fat basslines.

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