U.S. travel volume this Memorial Day weekend is expected to rise by 8% to 39.2 million, from last year, as fuel prices continue to increase before the unofficial start to summer, according to AAA.
Still, the travel volume is projected to be down 8% from 2019 levels. Vehicle travel is projected to be down 7%, while air travel is expected to be down 6% from 2019 levels.
Compared to last year, vehicle travel is projected to rise by 5% to 34.9 million travelers, and air travel is expected to increase by 25% to 3.01 million travelers.
Memorial Day is May 30.
“Memorial Day is always a good predictor of what’s to come for summer travel,” said Paula Twidale, senior vice president for AAA Travel. “Based on our projections, summer travel isn’t just heating up, it will be on fire. People are overdue for a vacation, and they are looking to catch up on some much-needed R&R in the coming months.”
The share of those traveling by air is projected to surpass 2019 levels, with 7.7% of travelers choosing air travel as their preferred mode. It was 7.5% in 2019.
“Air travel has faced several challenges since the beginning of the year,” Twidale said. “With the type of volume we anticipate, we continue to recommend the safety net of a travel agent and travel insurance. Both are a lifesaver if something unexpectedly derails your travel plans.”
The average lowest airfares have risen by 6% to $184 per ticket, from the same time last year. Mid-range hotel rates have increased by about 42%, with the average lowest rates ranging between $199 and $257 per night. Car rental rates have declined by 16%, with the average lowest rate at $100 per day.
According to the AAA, the U.S. average price for regular gas has risen to $4.56 per gallon, up 48 cents from last month and $1.52 from last year. The rise can be attributed to the high cost of crude oil, which is near $110 a barrel.
The AAA website shows the average price in every state is above $4 per gallon. Kansas ($4.02) has the lowest price, while California ($6.05) has the highest. In Arkansas, the average price is $4.11, up 42 cents from last month and $1.34 from last year.
“Even with a significant increase in gas prices, we expect a large jump in holiday driving compared to the last few years,” said Bob Pishue, transportation analyst for INRIX. “Drivers should expect congestion on major roadways around big cities and popular destinations. Knowing when and where congestion will build can help drivers avoid the stress of sitting in traffic.”
The longest travel delays before the holiday weekend are expected to be in the afternoons on May 26 and May 27, according to INRIX.
According to crowdsourced fuel pricing app GasBuddy, fuel prices have risen for four consecutive weeks.
“Those filling their tanks last week saw another jolt at the pump, as both gasoline and diesel prices continued their multi-week rally,” said Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy. “Prices later this week could be closer to $5 per gallon than $4, as demand continues to edge higher and inventories of both gasoline and diesel continue to decline, temperatures warm and motorists get back outside, and we near the Memorial Day weekend, the start of the summer driving season. While the increases may start to slow in the days ahead as pump prices catch up to oil, there isn’t much reason to be optimistic that we’ll see a plunge any time soon.”