Despite gas prices being the highest since 2014, about 41.5 million Americans are predicted to travel Memorial Day weekend, nearly a 5% increase from last year and the highest number in more than 12 years.

According to AAA and global transportation analytics firm INRIX, the addition of nearly 2 million travelers is expected to cause serious travel delays on major roads, with routes taking up to three times longer than usual.

The busiest travel days are expected on Thursday and Friday, with holiday travelers mixing with commuters. Many of the larger metro areas, such as Chicago and Washington, D.C., could see double the normal travel time; New Yorkers can expect almost three times the delay.

“Ranked the most congested country in the world, U.S. drivers are all too familiar with sitting in traffic,” Graham Cookson, chief economist and head of research at INRIX, said in a statement. “Drivers should expect congestion across a greater number of days than in previous years, with the getaway period starting on Wednesday. Our advice to drivers is to avoid peak commute times in major cities altogether – traveling late morning or early afternoon – or plan alternative routes.”

Worst Days/Times to Travel
Metro Area Worst Day for Travel Worst Time for Travel Delay Multiplier of Normal Trip
Atlanta Thursday 3:30-5:30 p.m. 1.6x
Houston Thursday 4:30-6 p.m. 1.5x
Boston Thursday 4:30-6:30 p.m. 1.8x
Washington, D.C. Thursday 4:30-7 p.m. 2.3x
San Francisco Friday 3-5:30 p.m. 1.7x
Los Angeles Friday 3:30-5:30 p.m. 1.9x
New York City Friday 3:30-6:30 p.m. 2.7x
Detroit Friday 4-5:30 p.m. 1.5x
Chicago Friday 4-6 p.m. 2.1x
Seattle Friday 4-6 p.m. 1.8x

By the numbers: 2018 Memorial Day holiday travel forecast

  • Automobiles: the vast majority of travelers – 36.6 million – will hit the road this Memorial Day, 4.7% more than last year.
  • Planes: 1 million people will travel by air, a 6.8% increase and the fifth year of consecutive air travel volume increases.
  • Trains, buses, and cruise ships: travel across these sectors will increase by 2.4% to 1.8 million passengers.

Higher gas prices not deterring travelers

Gas prices averaged $2.72 in April, 33 cents higher than the year before. The 88% of Americans who choose to travel for Memorial Day weekend will be paying highest prices for gas since 2014.

However, while travelers will be paying more at the pump, they will be making up for it in other travel-related areas. According to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, airline tickets are averaging around $186 — 7% lower than last year — for a round trip flight along the top 40 domestic routes.  The average daily car rental is $59, 11% cheaper than last year and one of the lowest rates in the past four years.

Similarly, AAA Three Diamond hotel rooms are averaging about $186 per night, 14% less than last year; Two Diamond hotels are averaging at $151 per night, about 7% cheaper than last year.

Top Travel Destinations

  • Orlando, Fla.
  • Seattle
  • Honolulu
  • Las Vegas
  • Anchorage, Alaska
  • Phoenix
  • Anaheim, Calif.
  • Boston
  • Denver
  • New York City

Internationally, Rome, London, and Dublin are the most popular destinations for Memorial Day Weekend 2018.

For those renting cars at airports, Hertz is predicting the Orlando, Las Vegas, Atlanta, Los Angeles, and Kahului, Hawaii, airports to be the busiest airport-pickup locations for rental cars.

Hertz is expecting Friday to be the busiest day out of the whole weekend, with and average rental length of six days.

Related: TravelSupermarket Reveals Cheapest Global Car Rental Locations

Originally posted on Auto Rental News

About the author
Michaela Kwoka-Coleman

Michaela Kwoka-Coleman

Assistant Editor

Michaela Kwoka-Coleman is an assistant editor for Auto Rental News and Business Fleet magazine.

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