Memorial Day marks the unofficial start of summer, and Americans will kick off the season by traveling in near-record numbers. According to AAA, more than 41.5 million Americans will travel this Memorial Day weekend, nearly 5 percent more than last year and the most in more than a dozen years.
That’s despite the highest gas prices in four years.
Officials at Mount Magazine State Park say they are expecting a busy weekend. As of last week, 80 percent of the rooms in the 60-room Lodge at Mount Magazine are booked for the holiday weekend and 75 percent of the 13 guest cabins in the park are booked. All 18 of the campsites are booked for the weekend, officials said.
According to the National Weather Service, the holiday weekend might be a wet one. There’s a chance of showers every day for the rest of this week and into the weekend, according to the forecast.
“The highest gas prices since 2014 won’t keep travelers home this Memorial Day weekend,” said Bill Sutherland, senior vice president, AAA Travel and Publishing. “A strong economy and growing consumer confidence are giving Americans all the motivation they need to kick off what we expect to be a busy summer travel season with a Memorial Day getaway.”
Gas prices averaged $2.72 in April, an increase of 33 cents from last year, due to expensive crude oil, record gasoline demand and shrinking global supply. However, these higher prices are not keeping holiday travelers home, with automobile travel expected to increase for the fourth straight year, by nearly 5 percent over last Memorial Day.
For the 36.6 million Americans traveling by automobile, INRIX, a travel consultation firm, in collaboration with AAA, predicts drivers will experience the greatest amount of congestion on Thursday and Friday – in the late afternoon as commuters leave work early and mix with holiday travelers.
While road trippers will pay higher prices at the gas pump this year, travelers can expect some relief in their wallets when paying for airfare, car rentals and most mid-range hotels. According to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, airfares are 7 percent lower than last Memorial Day, landing at an average price of $168 for a round-trip flight along the top 40 domestic routes. At $59, the average daily cost of a car rental this Memorial Day is the lowest rate in the past four years and 11 percent cheaper than last year.