After a Harsh Winter More Americans to Start Summer Travel Season with a Memorial Day Getaway

AAA projects more than 36 million Americans to travel for the holiday

highway with mountains trees in background

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va., (May 16, 2014) – AAA Travel projects 36.1 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more from home during the Memorial Day holiday weekend, a 1.5 percent increase from the 35.5 million people who traveled last year. Kicking off the summer driving season, more than eight in ten travelers will be driving to their destinations. The Memorial Day holiday travel period is defined as Thursday, May 22 to Monday, May 26.

“As we enter into the summer travel season with warmer temperatures and tulips in bloom, thoughts of historic cold are still fresh in the minds of Americans in many parts of the country,” said Georjeane Blumling, Vice President of Public Affairs for AAA Tidewater Virginia. “The winter blues appear to have given Americans the travel bug and a case of cruise cabin fever as travel for the holiday is expected to hit a new post-recession high.” In Virginia, over 1 million persons are expected to travel at least 50 miles from home this Memorial Day weekend, equaling a 1.4% increase from 2013 totals and the largest number overall since the 2005  record of just over 1.2 million travelers of this time period.

Highlights from 2014 Memorial Day Travel Forecast include:

  • Memorial Day holiday travel volume is expected to reach a new post-recession high with 36.1  million Americans taking a trip
  • The 2014 forecast is 2.6 percent higher than the ten-year historical average and the second highest travel volume since 2000
  • Eighty-eight percent of travelers (31.8 million) to travel by automobile, an increase from 31.4 million last year
  • Holiday air travel expected to increase from 2.4 percent to 2.6 million leisure travelers
  • Travel by other modes of transportation including cruise, trains and buses will see the largest increase, up 6.5 percent (total 1.7 million travelers)
  • Travelers will encounter slightly higher prices with airfares six percent higher, mid-range hotels up two percent and car rentals costing one percent more

In addition to seasonal rising temperatures, improvements in several key economic factors are driving the expectation for more holiday travelers this year. “As the economy continues to improve at a slow and steady pace consumer spending, disposable income, consumer confidence and the employment outlook are trending up which is welcomed news for the travel industry,” continued Blumling.

The unforgiving winter was a hindrance to economic growth at the beginning of the year but economic factors influenced by weather, such as car and home sales, appear to be resolving themselves now.  Indicative of the unusually harsh winter, AAA experienced an increase of nearly 12 percent in battery related calls this winter.

Impact of gasoline prices on travel plans

AAA expects that most drivers will pay lower gas prices by Memorial Day weekend due to rising supplies. AAA expects holiday gas prices to be relatively similar or even slightly less than last year’s national Memorial Day average of $3.63 per gallon, though unexpected developments such as refinery problems or international events could result in higher costs. With many plans already made and budgets set, it is unlikely that gas prices will have a significant effect on travel plans compared to a year ago. In Virginia, prices have dropped slightly from $3.51 on May 1st to $3.46 today, May 16th. This price is two cents lower than a month ago and 11cents higher than one year ago.

Travel expenses rise modestly

According to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, hotel rates for AAA Three Diamond lodgings are expected to increase just two percent from one year ago with travelers spending an average of $169 per night compared to $166 last year. The average hotel rate for AAA Two Diamond hotels has risen three percent with an average cost of $124 per night.

Weekend daily car rental rates will average $44, only one percent higher than last year. Airfares are experiencing the largest increase. The average round-trip, discounted fares for the top 40 U.S. routes have increased six percent to $227 from $215 last year.

Traveler by car holding steady

Automobile travel is expected to increase 1.2 percent from 2013 with 31.8 million travelers expected to hit the road. The share of people traveling by car is expected to fall slightly to 88.1 percent. Gas prices are expected to be relatively similar to one year ago for the holiday. In the Commonwealth, 937,138 auto travelers are expected over the holiday weekend. This is a slight increase from 2013 number of auto travelers, but 2014 is still the highest number on record since 2005 when over one million took to the roads during the Memorial Day holiday weekend.

Air Travel Expected to Increase

Air travel is expected to be up 2.4 percent this year, as 2.6 million travelers are expected to fly to their holiday destination. Air travel share of overall trips will increase slightly to 7.1 percent as a result of the gain. Across Virginia, air travel has increased two percent for 2014 with over 77,000 people flying for the holiday weekend. 

AAA offers digital travel planning resources

AAA’s digital tools for travel planning ‘on the go’ include eTourBook guides for tablets and smartphones, available free to members at AAA.com/ebooks. Choose from 101 top North American destinations including city titles, like the award-winning Las Vegas, regions, like Wine Country, and National Parks.

The free AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android uses GPS navigation to help travelers map a route, find current gas prices and discounts, book a hotel, and access AAA roadside assistance. Members using the iPad version can access interactive Top Destinations travel guides for 10 popular cities. Travelers can learn more at AAA.com/mobile.

On AAA.com, travelers can find thousands of AAA Approved and Diamond Rated hotels and restaurants using AAA’s TripTik Travel Planner or the searchable Travel Guides at AAA.com/Travel. Every AAA Approved establishment offers the assurance of acceptable cleanliness, comfort and hospitality, and ratings of One to Five Diamonds help travelers find the right match for amenities and services.

AAA’s projections are based on economic forecasting and research by IHS Global Insight. The Colorado-based business information provider teamed with AAA in 2009 to jointly analyze travel trends during the major holidays. AAA has been reporting on holiday travel trends for more than two decades. The complete AAA / IHS Global Insight 2014 Memorial Day Travel Forecast can be found here.