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Memorial Day forecast predicts record number of Americans will travel over holiday weekend

The unofficial start to summer will be a busy one this year as AAA predicts 39.2 million people will travel 50 miles or more from home this Memorial Day weekend Mary 28-30, an increase of 8.3% over 2021, bringing travel volumes almost in line with those in 2017.

Air travel continues to rebound, up 25% over last year, the second-largest increase since 2010. With volumes closing in on pre-pandemic levels, travelers are urged to book now and remember flexibility is key this upcoming Memorial Day weekend.

By the Numbers

Memorial Day weekend is expected to be the busiest in two years, building on an upward trend that began earlier this spring. This year’s forecast marks the second-highest single-year increase in travelers since 2010 (2021 was the highest), bringing volumes almost in line with pre-pandemic levels.

Despite historically high gas prices, 34.9 million people plan to travel by car, up 4.6% over last year. A greater portion of travelers are opting for air and other modes of travel than in previous years. Share of car travel fell from 92.1% last year to 88.9% this year, a slight indication that higher prices at the pump are having an impact on how people choose to travel this Memorial Day. Regardless of which mode they choose, travelers should prepare for a busy holiday weekend.

“Memorial Day is always a good predictor of what’s to come for summer travel,” said Lori Weaver Hawkins, public affairs manager, AAA Blue Grass. “Based on our projections, summer travel is really heating up, despite record-setting gas prices. People are overdue for a vacation and they are looking forward to some time away in the coming months.”

Air travel volume, which began to rally last Thanksgiving, will hit levels just shy of 2019 with 3 million people expected to take to the skies this Memorial Day weekend.

“Air travel has faced several challenges since the beginning of the year,” continued Weaver Hawkins. “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.”

2022 Projected Memorial Day Holiday Travelers – United States (From AAA Blue Grass; click for larger graphic)

Over 12% of Kentuckians Predicted to Travel

AAA is projecting that over 563,000 Kentuckians will travel a distance of 50 miles or more over the Memorial Day Weekend and, as usual, the large majority will be driving to their destinations, though air travel and travel by other modes of transportation are both up significantly compared to last year.

Of those Kentuckians planning to travel, about 84% of them―or more than 473,000 Kentuckians―will be hitting the road for the holiday, up almost 4% compared to last year, despite record gas prices. While the increase in auto travel is notable given the pain at the pump, a sharp jump in air travel and travel by other modes of transportation suggests gas prices may be motivating some travelers to consider alternatives to driving.

“The roads will be as crowded over the Memorial Day weekend as we’ve seen since before the pandemic, but airports, train stations and bus depots will also be extremely busy, so travelers should plan accordingly,” says Weaver Hawkins.

Compared to last year, about 7.3% more Kentuckians plan to travel this Memorial Day weekend, while 3.9% more will travel by vehicle compared to a year ago and about 20.6% additional people plan to travel by air compared to 2021.

The number of Kentuckians expected to travel over the 2022 Memorial Day Holiday (Click for larger graphic)

AAA Blue Grass

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