AAA Texas projects 3.5 million Texans will travel 50 miles or more from home this Memorial Day weekend, a seven percent increase over 2022 and the second highest total volume for Texas since AAA began tracking Memorial Day travel data in 2000. Across the country, there will be a similar increase in total travel volume with 42.3 million Americans expected to venture 50+ miles away from home.
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“Memorial Day kicks off what will be a very busy summer travel season despite higher prices. With international booking volumes exceeding 200 percent above last year, time is running out to make preferred accommodations at popular destinations this summer,” said Galen Grillo, AAA Texas Vice President and General Manager. “AAA Texas encourages working with a travel advisor as they can provide expert planning advice and offer peace of mind should there be any changes during your trip.”
An estimated 287,000 Texans are expected to fly to their destinations this Memorial Day, that’s an increase of 13 percent over last year. On a national scale - 3.4 million travelers are expected to fly to their destinations this Memorial Day, that’s an increase of 11 percent over last year. Air travel over the holiday weekend across the country is projected to exceed pre-pandemic levels, with 170,000 more passengers – or 5.4 percent more – than in 2019. Despite high ticket prices, demand for flights is skyrocketing. This Memorial Day weekend could be the busiest at airports since 2005 in terms of domestic round-trip leisure travelers.
Memorial Day road trips are up 6 percent over last year in Texas with three million expected to drive to their destinations. Across America, 37.1 million will drive to their destinations, an increase of more than two million. Gas prices are lower this holiday compared to last year, when the national average was more than $4 a gallon. Despite the lower prices at the pump, car travel this holiday will be shy of pre-pandemic numbers by about 500,000 American travelers.
More people this holiday are taking other modes of transportation, like cruises, buses and trains. These travelers are expected to total 1.9 million with 148,000 Texans expected to use these travel methods. This is an increase of more than 20 percent over 2022.
Most and Least Congested Times to Travel
INRIX, a provider of transportation data and insights, expects Friday, May 26 to be the busiest day on the roads during the long Memorial Day weekend. The least congested times to travel by car are in the morning (except rush hour) or evening after 6 p.m. The lightest traffic days will be Saturday and Sunday. Major metro areas like Boston, New York, Seattle, and Tampa will likely see travel times double compared to normal. To avoid drowsy driving, AAA Texas recommends drivers travel when they are normally awake, get plenty of sleep and take a break at least every two hours or 100 miles.
AAA booking data for the Memorial Day weekend shows tourist hotspots like Orlando, New York City, and Las Vegas are top domestic destinations. Cruise port cities in Florida and Alaska, as well as Seattle, are high on the list given the 50 percent increase in domestic cruise bookings compared to last year. Other popular U.S. cities this Memorial Day include Denver, Boston, Anaheim, and Canton, Ohio – home of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Travelers are paying more for Memorial Day trips this year, in large part due to the rising cost of airline tickets. AAA booking data shows a 40 percent increase in airfare to this year’s Top Destinations. But that’s not stopping travelers from booking flights abroad. International travel is surging with bookings 250 percent higher this holiday weekend compared to 2022. European cities are the most popular, including Rome, Paris, Dublin, London, Barcelona, and Athens. International car rentals are up more than 80 percent over 2022. AAA reports strong sales for International Driving Permits this year, almost double what they were last year. The passport courier service RushMyPassport is also seeing an unprecedented number of applications for expedited passport and visa services this year.
Second Highest Travel Volume for Memorial Day in Texas
The automobile remains the primary mode of travel in 2023, a year which is estimated to have the second highest total travel volume for Memorial Day weekend in Texas since 2000. Roadways will be busy this year, just shy of the record set in 2005 when 3.6 million people traveled for the holiday. It’s another indicator that travel has seen a major rebound following the COVID-19 pandemic. Far from the top 5 years for Texas Memorial Day travel volume, in 2020 approximately 1.9 million Texans traveled, resulting in the lowest Memorial Day since 2000. Prior to 2020, Memorial Day 2009 was the lowest year for travel volume over the holiday period.
Holiday Forecast Methodology
In cooperation with AAA, S&P Global Market Intelligence developed a unique methodology to forecast actual domestic travel volumes. The economic variables used to forecast travel for the current holiday are leveraged from S&P Global Market Intelligence’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 gasoline prices, airline travel, and hotel stays. AAA and S&P Global Market Intelligence 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 SPGMI 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 17, 2023.
Memorial Day Holiday Travel Period
For purposes of this forecast, the Memorial Day holiday travel period is defined as the five-day period from Thursday, May 25 to Monday, May 29. The five-day holiday length is consistent with previous holiday periods.
Started in 1902 by automotive enthusiasts who wanted to chart a path for better roads in America and advocate for safe mobility, AAA has transformed into one of North America’s largest membership organizations. Today, AAA provides roadside assistance, travel, discounts, financial and insurance services to enhance the life journey of over 63 million members across North America, including 56 million in the United States. To learn more about all AAA has to offer or to become a member, visit AAA.com.