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AAA says 2024 to be second highest Memorial Day travel forecast since 2000

This year to be most crowded Memorial Day weekend at airports since 2005.

By Chris Benson
A traveler receives assistance at an information window in Grand Central Terminal in New York City, Dec. 2023. Around 115 million people in the U.S. were expected to travel by car or plane over the 10-day holiday period at the time. File photo by John Angelillo/UPI
1 of 2 | A traveler receives assistance at an information window in Grand Central Terminal in New York City, Dec. 2023. Around 115 million people in the U.S. were expected to travel by car or plane over the 10-day holiday period at the time. File photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

May 13 (UPI) -- The American Automobile Association, better known as AAA, on Monday released data which estimates nearly 44 million American travelers will leave town in what will be the second highest Memorial Day travel forecast since 2000 when data was first available.

"We haven't seen Memorial Day weekend travel numbers like these in almost 20 years," Paula Twidale, Senior Vice President of AAA Travel, said in a release.

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AAA projects 43.8 million travelers will go 50 miles or more from home over the Memorial Day holiday travel period, which they said was a 4% increase from 2023 and comes close to matching the record of 44 million Memorial Day travelers in 2005.

"We're projecting an additional one million travelers this holiday weekend compared to 2019, which not only means we're exceeding pre-pandemic levels but also signals a very busy summer travel season ahead," the AAA executive added.

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AAA expects 3.51 million air travelers this Memorial Day weekend, a 4.8% increase over last year and a 9% jump compared to 2019.

"This will be the most crowded Memorial Day weekend at airports since 2005," AAA advised travelers.

In addition, AAA said nearly two million people are expected to travel by other modes of transportation which includes buses, cruise ships and trains, a 5.6% increase compared to 2023.

AAA defines this year's Memorial Day holiday travel period as the five-day period from May 23 to Monday, May 27.

Last year, AAA said that it was also expecting an uptick in travel over the 2023 Memorial Day weekend, although at the time road trips were reported to have not bounced back to pre-pandemic levels despite a temporary slide in gas prices.

But road travelers are also being advised to plan travel times accordingly to avoid and lessen traffic congestion.

"Travel times are expected to be up to 90% longer than normal," said Bob Pishue, transportation analyst at INRIX, who likewise advised travelers to "stay up to date on traffic apps, 511 services, and local news stations to avoid sitting in traffic longer than necessary."

AAA noted "the wildcard" remains the cost of oil because, unlike last year, there are now additional world military conflicts that could roil and impact the oil market.

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In 2023, AAA projected 42.3 million Americans would travel 50 miles or more to a destination which was up 2.7 million people -- or 7% -- from 2022 the year prior.

But the price of gas this Memorial Day, however, is expected to be similar to last year when the national average was roughly $3.57, according to AAA.

"Pump prices rose this spring but have held somewhat steady in recent weeks," AAA said. "Prices may creep higher as the summer driving season gets underway."

But travel insiders have predicted that in 2024 people will plan more solo adventure trips, travel to Europe more and try out new things like 3D printed food.

This comes as the U.S. Customs and Border Protection said in early April that it will increase travel fees for some of the most well-known Trusted Travel Programs.

A recent American Express Travel report found that travelers are more focused on creating the right itineraries for their vacations, leaning towards sporting events, unusual adventures and solo travels that are taken on a whim.

However, the cost of traveling, including airfare and food costs is likely to keep rising with some companies focusing more on affordability as inflation is viewed as slowly getting under control.

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The AAA travel statistics also come days after Illinois-based grocery chain Aldi announced that they have dropped the price of over 250 grocery items in stores nationwide to help customers fight "stubborn inflation" and better enjoy the summer.

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