AAA, The Auto Club projects a huge rebound for Memorial Day travel at the end of the month and Florida will reap a big benefit from a resurgence in fliers and motorists as the coronavirus pandemic begins to wane.
AAA officials project there will be a 60% increase in travel across the nation during the Memorial Day stretch between Thursday, May 27 and the holiday itself on Monday, May 31. That’s a huge increase from a year ago when the travel industry was rocked by the COVID-19 outbreak and Americans dramatically scaled back travel plans.
An estimated 37 million Americans will likely travel more than 50 miles from their homes during the Memorial Day break while 2.05 million Floridians are expected to take trips during that time. The national figure would be up 23 million travelers from a year ago while the Sunshine State figure would increase from 1.2 million residents who traveled Memorial Day weekend in 2020, a 62% projected increase.
“A year’s worth of pent-up demand is being unleashed this summer, as Americans anticipate the kick off to the season,” said Debbie Haas, vice president of travel for AAA. “Travel bookings with AAA, The Auto Club Group have surged recently, setting the stage for what should be a busy holiday weekend and an exciting summer.”
Orlando will likely benefit from much of the windfall, according to AAA. The organization projects Las Vegas as the top destination for road travelers during the break while Orlando is expected to be the second most popular target.
Those destinations are reversed for the most popular travel bookings, with Orlando on top of the list followed by Las Vegas.
No other Florida destinations are in the top five.
The categories of projected Florida travel show numbers approaching pre-pandemic levels with 1.9 million Sunshine State residents expected to take trips by car. Another 130,132 people are expected to fly during the holiday, and 7,645 people are expected to use other modes of transportation, such as trains.
The Florida road travel increase is up from last year’s 1.2 million people who used vehicles and nearly as high 2019’s 2 million travelers. The air travel projection would be a huge boost from last year, which included 21,208 trips, and near 2019 air travel at 183,266 travelers.
The increase in travel is expected to come as gasoline prices are climbing. The average price per gallon of gas in Florida jumped a dime last week to $2.88 as of Monday. But Florida AAA officials said that won’t stop Memorial Day weekend travelers.
“Many Americans are so eager to travel, we don’t expect higher gas prices to interfere with their plans,” said Mark Jenkins, spokesperson for Florida AAA Auto Club. “We typically find when pump prices increase, travelers look for more free activities or eat out less while on vacation, but still take their planned trips.”