Memorial Day Weekend 2023 Is Expected to Break Travel Records — Here's When to Leave to Avoid Traffic

AAA Travel expects the holiday weekend to be one of the busiest since 2000.

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More than 42 million Americans are expected to travel for Memorial Day this year, marking a notable increase from last year and one of the busiest Memorial Day holiday weekends on record.

In total, 42.3 million Americans are expected to travel 50 miles or more from their homes over the Memorial Day holiday weekend (known as the unofficial start of summer) from Thursday, May 25, to Monday, May 29, according to AAA. That represents a 7 percent increase — or 2.7 million more people — compared to the same time period in 2022.

The jump is being seen across the board from air travel to road trips, trains, buses, and more.

“This is expected to be the third busiest Memorial Day weekend since 2000, when AAA started tracking holiday travel,” Paula Twidale, the senior vice president of AAA Travel, said in a statement. “More Americans are planning trips and booking them earlier, despite inflation. This summer travel season could be one for the record books, especially at airports.”

For those hitting the road, more than 37 million Americans will hit the road and road trips will see a 6 percent increase compared to 2022. That’s spurred by lower prices at the pump with a gallon averaging about $3.54 nationally, according to AAA. Last year, the average was more than $4 per gallon over the holiday weekend.

Travelers who are driving and want to beat traffic should avoid heading out on Friday, May 26, which is expected to be the busiest day on the roads. The least crowded driving days will be Saturday and Sunday while the best times to drive are in the mornings or after 6 p.m.

When it comes to air travel, nearly 3.4 million travelers are expected to fly for the holiday weekend, an 11 percent increase compared to last year and a 5.4 percent increase compared to pre-pandemic in 2019. In fact, the Memorial Day weekend could be the busiest for airports since 2005, according to the report.

That’s on par with a recent report from Hopper that showed international airfare is expected to reach a 5-year high this summer with the increase attributed to a combination of lower supply, high fuel costs, and high demand. And just last month, Delta reported its international flights were already 75 percent booked for the summer.

Other modes of transportation are also seeing a bump with 1.85 million people expected to take a bus or train, a 20.6 percent increase compared to 2022. And domestic cruise bookings are up a whopping 50 percent compared to last year (with port cities in Florida, Alaska, and Seattle in high demand for summer).

“We are seeing a demand for iconic cities, international vacation packages, and cruises with included amenities that provide more value for the price,” Twidale said.

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