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Retailers Prepare for Near-Record Memorial Day Travel

AAA: Nearly 44 million travelers will head out over the holiday weekend as gas prices hold steady.
Highway Traffic at Sunset

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Approximately 43.8 million travelers will head 50 miles or more from home over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday travel period, according to a new forecast from AAA. 

[Read more: Demand for EV Charging at the Workplace Increases]

This is a 4% increase over last year's numbers and comes close to matching 2005's record of 44 million travelers. 

"We haven't seen Memorial Day weekend travel numbers like these in almost 20 years," said Paula Twidale, senior vice president of AAA Travel. "We're projecting an additional 1 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."

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Road trips are expected to set a record. AAA projects 38.4 million people will travel by car over Memorial Day weekend, the highest number for the holiday since AAA began tracking in 2000. The number of drivers this year is up 4% compared to last year and 1.9% higher than in 2019. 

Drivers can expect similar gas prices over the holiday weekend as last year when the national average was roughly $3.57. Pump prices rose this spring but have held somewhat steady in recent weeks. However, prices may creep higher as the summer driving season gets underway or if the ongoing conflicts in the Middle East and Ukraine end up roiling the oil market, AAA previously reported.

INRIX, a provider of transportation data and insights, suggested drivers leaving Thursday or Friday should hit the road early to avoid mixing with commuters. Travelers going back home on Sunday or Monday should avoid the afternoon hours when return trips will peak.  

Best & Worst Times to Travel by Car 


Worst Travel Time 

Best Travel Time 

Thursday, May 23 

12 p.m. to 6 p.m. 

Before 11 a.m., after 7 p.m. 

Friday, May 24 

12 p.m. to 7 p.m. 

Before 11 a.m., after 8 p.m. 

Saturday, May 25 

2 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Before 1 p.m., after 6 p.m.

Sunday, May 26 

3 p.m. to 7 p.m. 

Before 1 p.m.

Monday, May 27 

3 p.m. to 7 p.m. 

After 7 p.m.

Airports are also bracing for a spike in travelers, with an anticipated 3.51 million air travelers projected, an increase of 4.8% over last year and 9% jump compared to 2019. 

Nearly 2 million people are expected to travel by other modes of transportation, including buses, cruises and trains. AAA projects 1.9 million people will travel with these options, an increase of 5.6% compared to last year. 

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