Memorial Day 2023: Travel predictions and best

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — As the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic fades further and further into the rearview mirror, Americans are making up for lost time and planning more flights during Memorial Day Weekend than they have in nearly two decades.

During Memorial Day Weekend, from May 25 through May 29, approximately 42.3 million Americans are expected to travel at least 50 miles from their home, a 7% increase from the 39.6 million who did so in 2022 and just 1% less than the 42.8 million in 2019, the year prior to the pandemic, according to AAA Travel.

“This is expected to be the third busiest Memorial Day weekend since 2000, when AAA started tracking holiday travel,” said Paula Twidale, senior vice president of AAA Travel. “More Americans are planning trips and booking them earlier, despite inflation.”

The vast majority of the 42.3 million expected Memorial Day travelers will travel by car, as road trips continue to be the preferred mode of travel for many Americans.

An estimated 37.1 million Americans are expected to travel by car this Memorial Day Weekend, a 6% increase from the 35 million who did so in 2022, and just 1.4% less than the 37.6 million recorded in 2019.

Air travel is expected to rebound in a major way, with travel experts expecting the number of air travelers to exceed pre-pandemic levels and reach its highest point since 2005.

“This summer travel season could be one for the record books, especially at airports,” Twidale said.

An estimated 3.39 million Americans are expected to travel by plane this Memorial Day Weekend, an 11% increase from the 3.05 million who did so in 2022, and a 5.4% increase from the 3.22 million recorded in 2019.

On other forms of travel, like buses, trains and cruise ships, AAA projected approximately 1.85 million travelers, a significant 20.6% increase from the 1.53 million in 2022, and just 2.4% less than the 1.9 million in 2019.


INRIX, a global transportation analytics company, projects Friday, May 26, to be the worst traffic period across the country, with trips taking more than twice the usual amount of time in some major metro areas, including New York City.

“With lower fuel prices and more travelers on the road compared to last year, drivers should expect long delays this holiday weekend, especially in and around major metros as commuters mix with Memorial Day travelers,” said Bob Pishue, transportation analyst at INRIX.

In the New York City area, INRIX anticipated the worst traffic to take place Monday, May 29, at 8 p.m., on the Garden State Parkway North, from the Jersey Shore to New York City, with traffic expected to reach 187% of normal levels as weekend travelers return home.

INRIX also provided a breakdown of the best and worst times to travel during each day of Memorial Day weekend if you’re looking to avoid traffic.

On Thursday, the best time to travel is before 1 p.m., while the worst time to travel will be from 3 to 6 p.m.

On Friday, the best time to travel is before 12 p.m., while the worst time to travel will be from 3 to 6 p.m.

On Saturday and Sunday, minimal traffic impacts are expected, according to INRIX.

On Monday, the best time to travel is before 10 a.m., while the worst time to travel will be from noon to 3 p.m.

“Knowing when and where congestion will build can help drivers avoid the stress of sitting in traffic. Our advice is to avoid driving during peak hours or use alternative routes,” Pishue said.


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