Travel

AAA expects big rebound in Memorial Day road trips in 2021

Car driving along a road

After a big dip in 2020, AAA Travel is predicting a 60% increase in travelers for the 2021 Memorial Day holiday weekend.

The federal holiday normally marks the start of summer vacation and road-trip season. After a year that was anything but normal, AAA expects this Memorial Day will see more than 37 million Americans journey 50 miles or more May 27-31, thanks to rising numbers of vaccinated people and pent-up demand. AAA travels with you, so we're looking at how those millions of people are expected to travel, where and when vacation traffic may be heaviest, and what you can do to help your trip go smoothly.

AAA's forecast by the numbers

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Travelers by automobile:

34.4 million

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Travelers by air:

2.5 million

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Travelers by train or other:

237,000

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National average gas price for regular as of May 10:

$2.96

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Projected increase in travelers in 2021 vs. 2020:

+14 million

Projected decrease in travelers in 2021 vs. 2019:

-5.7 million

Factors that affect the forecast

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Vaccination proceeds apace

Many Americans have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The CDC advises they can travel domestically at low risk to themselves, while taking proper precautions. 

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The economy is recovering

Travel restrictions are easing, unemployment is falling, and other growth indicators like airport traffic and restaurant bookings are showing a rise in economic activity.

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Gas prices steady

Gasoline prices have gone up recently but are roughly the same as in April 2019, and most of the country can expect gas to be less than $3 for a gallon of regular on Memorial Day. 

Road traffic forecast for major cities, according to INRIX

Based on historical and recent travel trends for Memorial Day weekend, transportation analytics company INRIX predicts drivers will experience the greatest congestion in the afternoons on Thursday, May 27 and Friday, May 28, as commuters leave work early and mix with vacation travelers. 

Atlanta

Worst day for travel: 

Thursday, May 27

Worst time for travel: 

3:30-5:30 p.m.

Boston

Worst day for travel:

Thursday, May 27

Worst time for travel: 

3-5 p.m.

Chicago

Worst day for travel: 

Thursday, May 27

Worst time for travel: 

2:45-4:45 p.m.

Detroit

Worst day for travel:

Friday, May 28

Worst time for travel:

2-4 p.m.

Houston

Worst day for travel:

Friday, May 28

Worst time for travel:

3:15-5:15 p.m.

Los Angeles

Worst day for travel:

Friday, May 28

Worst time for travel:

4:30-6:30 p.m.

New York City

Worst day for travel:

Thursday, May 27

Worst time for travel:

1-3 p.m.

San Francisco

Worst day for travel:

Thursday, May 27

Worst time for travel:

5:45-7:45 p.m.

Washington, D.C.

Worst day for travel:

Thursday, May 27

Worst time for travel:

3:30-5:30 p.m.

AAA technician testing a car battery

What it means for you

Road tripping in the family car is a Memorial Day classic. AAA predicts 34.4 million auto travelers will account for almost 93% of long-distance Memorial Day trips.

With so many cars on the road, it’s no surprise Memorial Day weekend is a busy time for AAA Roadside Assistance. AAA expects to assist more than 468,000 motorists this Memorial Day. Want to avoid becoming one of them? Here’s what you can do:

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Get your battery checked

If your vehicle's battery is more than 3 years old, don’t risk getting stranded. Have it tested with AAA Mobile Battery Service, which will come directly to you. Learn more about AAA Mobile Battery Service.

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Check your tires

Improperly inflated or unevenly worn tires can lead to sudden blowouts, especially in hot weather. Not sure what you should be looking for? Check out AAA's guide to maintaining your tires.

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Bring a spare key

Despite the wide adoption of wireless “smart” keys, AAA hasn't seen a significant reduction in lockout calls. Having a backup key can’t prevent lockouts, but can make them much easier to resolve.

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Get a checkup

Dead batteries and flat tires are most common, but AAA tows lots of vehicles with unforeseen engine, transmission, and brake issues. Not sure where to go? Consider a AAA Approved Repair facility.

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Pack an emergency kit

Every vehicle should have a kit with a phone charger, flashlight, first-aid kit, tire pressure gauge, adjustable wrench, wiper fluid, jumper cables, emergency flares or reflectors, drinking water, and snacks.

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Get the Auto Club App

Whether you’re looking to map a route, find low gas prices, request Roadside Assistance, or find a AAA Approved Repair facility, the Auto Club App makes it simple. Learn more about the Auto Club App.

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COVID-19 travel restrictions

Get state-to-state travel information as it relates to border crossings, travel restrictions, and quarantine mandates.

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Prevent wear & tear by renting from Hertz

Instead of putting extra miles on your vehicle, rent from Hertz. AAA members get all sorts of benefits when booking with Hertz, including discounts of up to 20% off base rates.

Members also get the peace of mind that comes with Hertz's Gold Standard Clean, a 15-point sanitizing process for all rental vehicles. 

See details and current promotions

AAA Travel alert: Many travel destinations have implemented COVID-19–related restrictions. Before making travel plans, check to see if hotels, attractions, cruise lines, tour operators, restaurants, and local authorities have issued health and safety-related restrictions or entry requirements. The local tourism board is a good resource for updated information.

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Information taken from Memorial Day Holiday Travel to Rebound to More Than 37 Million” AAA Public Affairs, May 11, 2021; and “Roadside Breakdowns Preventable with Proper Maintenance, Finds AAA,” AAA Public Affairs, October 8, 2015.

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