Move aside, Thanksgiving. Take a step back, Christmas. Memorial Day is just around the corner and it’s about to challenge the record books! This Memorial Day weekend is predicted to be “the second-highest travel volume on record since AAA began tracking holiday travel volumes dating back to 2000.”

What does that mean in terms of real numbers? A whopping 1.5 million extra people will be on the road compared to last year, representing an increase of 3.6 percent. In total, approximately 37.6 million people will be traveling by automobile around Memorial Day. Even as national gas prices inch toward $3 a gallon, America’s passion for road trips remains strong.

Traffic on an American highway.

To a certain extent, the aggravation of higher fuel costs is offset by lower car-rental rates. According to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, “car rental prices have declined 7 percent compared with last year, with an average daily rate of $55.” And even hotels are less expensive. Mid-range hotels are between 2 percent and 3 percent cheaper in 2019 than they were in 2018.

As the unofficial start of the summer holiday season, Memorial Day weekend has come to represent adventure, family fun, tradition, and discovery. Travelers are willing to economize by seeking out free attractions, cutting back on extravagant meals, and even shortening the duration of their trip in order to compensate for the cost of gas and still afford their trip.

A sparkler and the American flag.

Beating The Crowds

Statistically, the most congested times to travel will be Thursday, May 23 and Friday, May 24 in the late afternoon. This is when 9-to-5 work commuters and road trippers converge, causing double the normal congestion in cities (and up to three times as much in New York and Washington, D.C.) Time your departure for earlier in the day -- or perhaps much later, if you don’t mind arriving after dark -- to save hours of frustration. You can also plan out alternative routes. Consider those winding country roads part of the adventure and seek out an old-time diner or ice cream parlor as your mid-trip reward!

When it comes to the return trip, expect the roads to be extremely busy on Monday, May 27, later in the afternoon. Millions of travelers will be trying to get home just before dinner! Boston, in particular, is expected to have three times the normal congestion levels between 3:45 and 5:45 p.m.

If you’re really dedicated to beating the crowds, you might want to avoid Orlando, New York, Las Vegas, Honolulu, Anaheim, Seattle, Phoenix, Anchorage, Tampa, and San Francisco. These are the top Memorial Day weekend travel destinations in the United States. Roadtrippers heading to Canada will want to plan carefully before hitting up Vancouver -- one of the busiest international destinations.

A couple on a road trip.

Before You Hit The Road

If you’re road tripping, be sure to do a routine safety inspection of your car. AAA expects to rescue some 353,000 motorists, and dead batteries, flat tires, and lockouts are among the top reasons motorists are stranded. Before you depart, check your tire pressure (including your spare!), top off your fluids, and make sure your car’s roadside emergency kit is well stocked -- and actually in your car!

Give family members or travel companions assigned roles. Who is responsible for the main set of keys, the backup set, the phone chargers, the snack bag? Many service calls are unavoidable, but making sure your car is in good repair and well organized will work in your favor to avoid trouble and ensure a great holiday-weekend getaway.

Looking forward to a Fourth of July getaway, too? These are the best summer towns for celebrating Independence Day in style. Interested in AAA’s stats? See the full report here.

Photo Credit: Valentino Funghi / Unsplash, cdrin / Shutterstock

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