This Is When Traffic Will Be Worst for Memorial Day Weekend, According to AAA

More than 43 million Americans are expected to travel for the Memorial Day holiday weekend, and a record number of those will hit the roads, making it essential travelers plan their road trips ahead.

In total, 43.8 million travelers are forecast to travel 50 miles or more from their homes, according to AAA, representing a 4 percent increase compared to last year. Of those, 38.4 million are expected to travel by car, the highest number for the Memorial Day holiday weekend since AAA started tracking data in 2000.

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

When it comes to road trips, most people are expected to pile into their cars on Thursday, May 23, and on Friday, May 24. Drivers hoping to avoid the worst traffic should set out super early to avoid competing with commuters, according to AAA. Those coming home on Sunday or Monday should similarly avoid the afternoon hours.

Overall, the best time to hit the road on Thursday is before 11 a.m. or after 7 p.m., while the best time to travel on Friday is before 11 a.m. or after 8 p.m. On Sunday, the best travel time to avoid congestion is before 1 p.m., while travelers are best off leaving after 7 p.m. on Monday.

Not all cities will see the same traffic, of course. The Tampa, Florida, area is expected to see one of the biggest traffic increases with up to an 88 percent bump in traffic on Sunday morning along I-75 S, while the Los Angeles area is expected to see up to an 84 percent increase in traffic on Thursday evening along I-5 N.

Beyond roads, more than 3.5 million travelers are expected to take to the skies, leading to crowded airports — the most crowded since 2005. These Memorial Day weekend air travel numbers represent a 4.8 percent increase compared to last year and a 9 percent increase compared to 2019. 

An additional 1.9 million travelers are forecast to use other transportation like buses, cruises, and trains. That’s a 5.6 percent increase compared to last year, according to AAA.

“Travel demand has been soaring, and long holiday weekends create the perfect windows for getaways,” Twidale said.

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