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AAA predicts more than 39 million Americans will travel during Memorial Day weekend

Nearly 12% of the population is protected to travel for Memorial Day, up by 3 million from last year.

BOISE, Idaho — According to projections by AAA, an estimated 39.2 million Americans will be traveling for Memorial Day weekend this year, with 224,000 of those being Idahoans.

If projections are correct, it would be an 8% increase from a year ago with three million more people traveling this year; it is just 3.5 million less compared to pre-pandemic levels.

"Every mode of travel continues to experience a strong rebound, despite periods of shaky consumer confidence and inflation that's near a 40-year high," AAA Idaho public affairs director Matthew Conde said. "People are bound and determined to make up for lost time, even if it's more expensive to fill up a gas tank, book a hotel room, or catch a flight."

AAA includes Thursday, May 26, through Monday, May 30, in this year's Memorial Day weekend.

In March, consumer sentiment hit an 11-year low due to rising food and energy prices, the war in Ukraine, and overall economic uncertainty. Disposable income is expected to fall by 4% from last year, but consumer spending is projected to increase by 9% in the second quarter. 

"When gas prices increase, travelers may try to reduce their other expenses, such as dining out or buying souvenirs," Conde said. "But since food, hotels, and just about everything else will be more expensive this year, it will take some careful planning to budget for a great vacation."

By the numbers:

  • Automobile travel will increase by nearly 5% to 34.9 million people. In 2020, 92% of all travelers went by car, compared with 89% this year.  About 1.5 million more people will load up in the family wagon this year than in 2021.
  • Air travel will increase by 25% to three million people, as more Americans seek to maximize their vacation time by flying.  AAA reports that several airlines have reduced flight schedules due to staffing shortages and training time for new crews and ground support.  Those who plan to fly should expect crowded planes.
  • After dipping to historic lows during the pandemic, travel by other modes, including cruises, trains, and buses, will increase to 1.3 million people, a 200% gain over 2021 levels.

"Masks aren't currently required on airplanes, but some airports still require them until passengers board their flight," Conde said. "Pack medications, snacks, a change of clothes, masks, and disinfectant wipes in your carry-on bag, and avoid traveling if you're sick."

Hotel and airfare has gotten more expensive, but rental car rates have actually decreased.

On average, nightly rates for hotels with a two- and three-Diamond AAA rating are 42% higher than a year ago.  The lowest prices for round-trip flights are up by 6% from a year ago, and the average Memorial Day ticket is $160 more than in 2021, but average car rental rates are down by 16%.

"Families will probably need to set their Memorial Day travel budget about 20 to 30 percent higher than last year," Conde said. "Using a credit card that offers rewards points on purchases like gas and groceries can put money back in your pocket, but only if you pay off your balance to avoid interest."

AAA predicts nearly 427,000 drivers will need roadside service over the holiday weekend, including 750 here in Idaho. While roughly 40% of the disabled vehicles will need to be towed, other issues can be prevented like dead batteries, lockouts and flat tires.

"As people get back to traveling in greater numbers, it's a good reminder to get a pre-trip inspection from a trusted mechanic," Conde said. "Staying proactive on maintenance issues could prevent major issues and a lot of frustration later."

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