60% More Travelers for Memorial Day This Year, AAA Says

Traffic on a California highway. (MCCAIG/Getty Images)

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About 37 million people will travel this Memorial Day, a significant boost from a year ago, according to AAA’s forecast for the traditional kickoff of the country’s summer driving season.

About 34.4 million travelers will rely on motor vehicles, 2.5 million will board airplanes and about 237,000 will hop on trains and buses. All told, about 60% more individuals and families will travel 50 miles or more compared with this time last year, per AAA’s forecast.

During the Memorial Day travel holiday last year, about 23 million people took trips. That was the lowest recorded figure since 2000, the group indicated.

A factor contributing to this year’s expected increase in travel from May 27 through May 31 has to do with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s updated guidance about COVID-19. The CDC notes that fully vaccinated individuals are able to travel domestically at low risk, while still maintaining adequate precautions. The CDC recommends individuals not vaccinated to maintain social distance, wear masks and seek access to COVID-19 tests.


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“As more people get the COVID-19 vaccine and consumer confidence grows, Americans are demonstrating a strong desire to travel this Memorial Day,” Paula Twidale, senior vice president for AAA Travel, said in a statement earlier this month.

“This pent-up demand will result in a significant increase in Memorial Day travel, which is a strong indicator for summer, though we must all remember to continue taking important safety precautions,” she continued.

Motorists hitting the road should expect the average price of gas to stay in the neighborhood of about $3 per gallon. That national average would amount to the most expensive level since 2014, according to AAA. GasBuddy, a fuel analyst firm, anticipates the summer driving season to be dynamic.

“Summer tends to be higher in terms of price and it’s simply because more people are on the road during summer. Due to the huge drop in demand last year for oil and the massive drop in price, oil producers greatly scaled back, but didn’t plan on demand bouncing back so much this year; so supply has not matched the rise in demand, a factor that could raise summer prices higher this year than [in] recent years, until oil producers start ramping back up,” according to an assessment GasBuddy released May 24. “The national average is expected to be $2.98 on Memorial Day, and likely to stay in the upper $2 per gallon range or even low $3 per gallon range as we approach midsummer, should gasoline demand rise to near-record levels. However, that could change depending on any change in the COVID-19 pandemic.”

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