PYMNTS MonitorEdge May 2024

AAA: Memorial Day Road Trips Will Hit Record Numbers 

road trip

Americans are projected to take a record number of road trips this Memorial Day weekend.

It’s part of an overall uptick in early summer travel forecast by the American Automobile Association (AAA) in new data released Monday (May 13).

“We haven’t seen Memorial Day weekend travel numbers like these in almost 20 years,” Paula Twidale, senior vice president of AAA Travel, said in a news release.

“We’re projecting an additional one million travelers this holiday weekend compared to 2019, which not only means we’re exceeding pre-pandemic levels but also signals a very busy summer travel season ahead.”

The numbers show that 43.8 million people will travel at least 50 miles between May 23 and May 27. That’s a 4% increase over last year and nearly matches the 2005 record of 44 million Memorial Day travelers, AAA said.

Most of those people will be traveling by car, with AAA forecasting 38.4 million people hitting the road, up 4% from 2023 and 1.9% from 2019. It’s the highest level of Memorial Day automobile traffic since the company began monitoring the holiday in 2000.

“Airports are bracing for a spike in travelers. AAA expects 3.51 million air travelers this holiday weekend, an increase of 4.8% over last year and 9% jump compared to 2019,” the release said. “This will be the most crowded Memorial Day weekend at airports since 2005, when 3.64 million flew for the holiday as the travel industry finally rebounded post 9/11.”

The cost of travel will remain more or less unchanged from last year, with both gas and air ticket prices at comparable levels to 2023, AAA said.

The association’s findings come in the wake of a surge in travel spending by older, higher-income consumers, as PYMNTS detailed last week.

A closer look at PYMNTS Intelligence’s most recent “Last Transactions“ analysis of first quarter consumer spending patterns reveals an increase among all age groups in the travel category, with credit card use seeing a 24% bump over the fourth quarter of year.

Those numbers showed older (people over 44) and high-income ($100,000+) consumers consistently outspending their younger counterparts and those in lower income brackets. Fueling this trend, the report argued, is the older demographic’s trust in credit providers, many of which provide protections against canceled trips and fraudulent charges.

“The difference in spending could also be attributed to varying priorities, financial strategies, or available leisure time, with many older consumers being retired and having more flexibility to travel,” the report said.