Nearly 43 million Americans will travel more than 50 miles this year to observe Memorial Day, the majority of them — 37.6 million — in cars. If you want to avoid traffic jams, stay off the roads late in the afternoon Thursday and Friday, especially during the evening commute hours.
During those hours, the trip will likely take as much as three times longer than normal, the auto club said, using data from the global transportation analytics company INRIX. The federal holiday set aside to remember members of the military who died while serving their country is often considered the unofficial start of summer.
Nationwide, the worst traffic congestion will occur late afternoons on Thursday and Friday, May 23 and 24. Many U.S. workers will leave their jobs early and mix with holiday traffic, creating a perfect storm for an afternoon commute that could sour your mood before the start of the Saturday through Monday holiday.
If you’re heading out of town, you’ll need a good playlist: Patch Editors’ Ultimate Road-Trip Playlist
“Drivers in the most congested metros should expect much worse conditions than normal,” Trevor Reed, transportation analyst, INRIX, said in a news release. “Travelers should anticipate delays to start on Wednesday and continue through Memorial Day. Our advice to drivers is to avoid the morning and evening commuting times or plan alternate routes.”
In some cities, the Memorial Day Weekend travel could be a buzz-kill if it’s not timed correctly, according to this information from INRIX:
Triple-A says 2019 will see the second-highest Memorial Day weekend traffic by volume since it started keeping track in 2000 and the most travelers since 2005. Overall, there will be 1.5 million more people traveling by car, train or plane than there were in 2018, for an increase of 3.6 percent.
Those traveling by automobile are doing so despite a rising national gas price average close to $3 a gallon. The national average for a gallon of gasoline was $2.86 on May 14, which compares to last year’s national average of $2.87 a gallon on the same date a year ago.
“When gas prices are expensive, travelers may shorten the distance of a road trip, eat out less or look for free activities,” AAA gas price expert Jeanette Casselano said in the release. “But, overall, prices are very similar to this time last year and, like then, they aren’t letting that deter them from taking summer road trips.”
More Memorial Day stories on Patch:
Memorial Day 2019: 5 Things To Know About Holiday’s Evolution
Memorial Day Flag Protocol: Why It Flies At Half-Staff Until Noon
The auto club said 3.25 million people will fly to their Memorial Day destinations, 4.8 percent more than last year. It will be the busiest holiday in the skies since 2005.
About 1.9 million people, an increase of 3.8 percent over last year, will travel by train, bus or cruise ship, according to the release.
And though gas prices are increasing, car rental and hotel rates are down a bit this Memorial Day. AAA’s Leisure Travel Index shows car rental prices are down 7 percent, compared to last year, with an average daily rate of $55. Mid-range hotels are between 2 percent and 3 percent cheaper this year, with an average nightly rate of $146 and $183, respectively for the AAA Two and Three Diamond-rated properties.
Airfares are holding steady compared to last Memorial Day with an average roundtrip price of $171, Triple-A said.
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