Memorial Day travel expected to increase 60 percent compared to 2020

Memorial Day weekend is going to be pretty busy on the highways, according to the American Automobile Association (AAA).

AAA Travel predicted on Tuesday that more than 37 million Americans will travel at least 50 miles away from home over the holiday weekend. That’s 60 percent more than last year when only 23 million Americans traveled for Memorial Day weekend.

The “significant rebound” in travel is expected because more Americans are getting the COVID-19 vaccine and because the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently updated its travel guidance saying that fully vaccinated Americans can safely travel around the country, AAA said in its report

“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, AAA Travel’s senior vice president said in a statement. “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.”

Though travel for Memorial Day weekend — from May 27 to May 31 — is expected to increase significantly this year, the 37 million Americans who are expected to travel this year is still 13 percent fewer travelers than during the same holiday weekend in 2019, AAA found. 

AAA estimates that of the 37 million Americans who are expected to travel over Memorial Day weekend, 34.4 million will travel by car, which is 12 million more than last year. 

Meanwhile, only 2.5 million Americans will fly — which is almost six times more than last year — and only 237,000 Americans will take a bus, a train or a cruise.

In its report, AAA noted that its estimation could be impacted by last minute decisions related to COVID-19 case numbers and variants or significant progress in the vaccine rollout in the coming weeks.

And though gas prices are rising, AAA doesn’t think that will slow travelers down for Memorial Day.

“We don’t expect higher gas prices to deter motorists this holiday season as many Americans are eager to travel,” AAA spokesperson Jeanette C. McGee said in a statement.  “We typically find when pump prices increase, travelers look for more free activities or eat out less while on vacation, but still take their planned trips.”