AAA motor club projects most travelers for Memorial Day weekend in 20 years
Memorial Day weekend is expected to prompt 2.5 million Floridians to travel.

Close up shot of flight schedules
Florida cities Orlando, Fort Lauderdale and Miami are among the most popular destinations in the U.S. during the break.

Travel experts are projecting that this Memorial Day weekend could put more people on the roads and in airplane seats than has been seen in two decades. And Florida is going to be one of the main destinations for those on the move this holiday period.

It appears that the weekend honoring America’s military service personnel might prompt the most people to drive and fly since AAA began tracking the travel patterns for holiday periods in 2000. It’s also a sign that traveling in the U.S. may have fully recovered from any residual impact from the COVID-19 pandemic, which began in 2020.

AAA projects that there will be 43.8 million Americans who will travel nationally during the Memorial Day stretch between Thursday, May 23, through Monday, May 27. That’s a 5% jump over 2023’s figure for the Memorial Day travel period, which reached 42 million travelers.

Analysts predict that about 38.4 million people will travel by car during the holiday stretch, while 3.5 million will fly and another 1.9 million will use other modes of transportation, such as trains or buses. All of those figures are up by 4% to 6% over last year.

The national projection for road travel is also expected to climb 1.9% higher than the 2019 figure for Memorial Day, the last year before the COVID-19 impact gripped the nation and brought travel to a crawl.

In Florida, AAA officials expect 2.5 million people will travel during the holiday period, with 2.3 million getting behind the wheel, about 224,200 people flying and 64,000 using other forms of transportation. Those figures are up by 5% from 2023 in Florida, with the exception of air travel, which is expected to provide an increase of 9%.

While many Floridians will be on the move, notable locales in the Sunshine State will also be the destination for travelers from other areas of the country during Memorial Day weekend. Three Florida cities are among the top 10 destinations for travelers in the U.S. this holiday weekend.

Orlando is the top domestic destination. Fort Lauderdale is the eighth-most popular destination for travelers, followed by Miami at No. 9.

While road trips are the most favored way to travel, AAA officials warn motorists to keep close attention to gasoline prices that will likely remain well above $3 per gallon.

“Traveling by car is appealing for many people because of the convenience and flexibility it provides,” said Mark Jenkins, Florida AAA spokesman. “However, that holiday road trip may cost more at the gas pump this year.”

Florida AAA provides a gas price monitoring website that can provide instant updates on average gas prices across the country and in the Sunshine State. Last year, the average price for a gallon of gas in Florida was $3.41.

While the price at the gas pumps will remain volatile, AAA officials said road trips will likely still be much more affordable than air travel. AAA’s analysis shows that the average round-trip domestic flight will cost about $778 per person this year. That’s a 2% hike over last year’s Memorial Day weekend travel period.

That also leads to another pricey impact related to air travel: rental cars. AAA projects that the Memorial Day weekend vehicle rental cost will run about $439. AAA also advises that in Florida, Orlando — rich with its theme parks — will be one of the cities with the highest demand for rental vehicles.

AAA advises travelers to be on the road generally before 11 a.m. or after 7 p.m., which are the best times for driving.

Drew Dixon

Drew Dixon is a journalist of 40 years who has reported in print and broadcast throughout Florida, starting in Ohio in the 1980s. He is also an adjunct professor of philosophy and ethics at three colleges, Jacksonville University, University of North Florida and Florida State College at Jacksonville. You can reach him at [email protected].


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