Travel

AAA expects Americans to take the most Memorial Day road trips in 14 years

Car driving along a road

Summer doesn’t technically begin until June 21, but Memorial Day weekend is fast approaching, and that’s almost as good. 

The federal holiday marks the start of summer vacation and road-trip season for millions of Americans, and AAA Travel is predicting—thanks to continued modest economic growth, and despite rising gas prices—that this Memorial Day will be the busiest since 2005. AAA Travel forecasts that more than 42 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more between May 23 and 27. AAA travels with you, so we're looking at how those millions of people are expected to travel, where and when vacation traffic may be heaviest, and what you can do to help your trip go smoothly.

AAA's forecast by the numbers

 
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Travelers by automobile:

37.6 million

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Travelers by air:

3.2 million

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Travelers by train or other:

1.9 million

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National average gas price for regular as of May 15:

$2.86

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Projected increase in travelers in 2019 vs. 2018:

+1.5 million

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Years that travel volume will have increased:

5 in a row

Factors that affect the forecast

 
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Economy still going strong

Overall economic growth has been strong, with the unemployment recently reaching a historic low.

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Consumers feel optimistic

Solid consumer sentiment and confidence levels have mostly recovered from a late-2018 slump.

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Gas prices steady

Drivers will see relatively expensive gas; the national average as of May 10 is $2.86, almost exactly the same as a year ago.

Road traffic forecast for major cities, according to INRIX

Based on historical and recent travel trends for Memorial Day weekend, transportation analytics company INRIX predicts drivers will experience the greatest congestion in the late afternoon on Thursday, May 23 and Friday, May 24, as commuters leave work early and mix with vacation travelers. 

Atlanta

Worst day for travel: 

Thursday, May 23

Worst time for travel: 

4:30-6:30 p.m.

Boston

Worst day for travel:

Monday, May 27

Worst time for travel: 

3:45-5:45 p.m.

Chicago

Worst day for travel: 

Friday, May 24

Worst time for travel: 

3:30-5:30 p.m.

Detroit

Worst day for travel:

Friday, May 24

Worst time for travel:

2:30-4:30 p.m.

Houston

Worst day for travel:

Sunday, May 26

Worst time for travel:

2:15-4:15 p.m.

Los Angeles

Worst day for travel:

Friday, May 24

Worst time for travel:

4:30-6:30 p.m.

New York City

Worst day for travel:

Thursday, May 23

Worst time for travel:

4:45-6:45 p.m.

San Francisco

Worst day for travel:

Saturday, May 25

Worst time for travel:

1-3 p.m.

Washington, D.C.

Worst day for travel:

Monday, May 27

Worst time for travel:

3:45-5:45 p.m.

AAA technician testing a car battery

What it means for you

Road tripping in the family car is a Memorial Day classic: AAA predicts 37.6 million auto travelers will account for 88% of long-distance Memorial Day trips.

With so many cars on the road, it’s no surprise Memorial Day weekend is a busy time for AAA’s Roadside Assistance. AAA expects to assist more than 350,000 motorists this Memorial Day. Want to avoid becoming one of them? Here’s what you can do:

 
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Get your battery checked

If your vehicle's battery is more than 3 years old, don’t risk getting stranded. Have it tested with AAA Mobile Battery Service, which will come directly to you. Learn more about AAA Mobile Battery Service.

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Check your tires

Improperly inflated or unevenly worn tires can lead to sudden blowouts, especially in hot weather. Not sure what you should be looking for? Check out AAA's guide to maintaining your tires.

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Bring a spare key

Despite the wide adoption of wireless “smart” keys, AAA hasn't seen a significant reduction in lockout calls. Having a backup key can’t prevent lockouts, but can make them much easier to resolve.

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Get a checkup

Dead batteries and flat tires are most common, but AAA tows lots of vehicles with unforeseen engine, transmission, and brake issues. Not sure where to go? Consider a AAA Approved Repair facility.

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Pack an emergency kit

Every vehicle should have a kit with a phone charger, flashlight, first-aid kit, tire pressure gauge, adjustable wrench, windshield washer solution, jumper cables, emergency flares or reflectors, drinking water, and snacks.

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Get the Auto Club App

Whether you’re looking to map a route, find low gas prices, request Roadside Assistance, or find a AAA Approved Repair facility, the Auto Club App makes it simple. Learn more about the Auto Club App.

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Information taken from “Hello, Summer: Nearly 43 Million Americans Will Kick off the Season with a Memorial Day Vacation,” AAA Public Affairs, May 15, 2019; and “Roadside Breakdowns Preventable with Proper Maintenance, Finds AAA,” AAA Public Affairs, October 8, 2015.

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