Memorial Day weekend travel expected to surge in region and beyond

Memorial Day is expected to produce a considerable uptick in people on the roads and in the skies to kick off the start of the summer travel season.

More than 1.48 million Ohioans will travel 50 miles or more over the Memorial Day holiday weekend, a 6.9% increase over last year, according AAA.

“We expected, as COVID restrictions lessened and people starting getting back to normal, that travel was going to rebound and Memorial Day travel particularly, which always seems to be a big travel time,” said AAA Club Alliance spokeswoman Kara Hitchens.

Closer to home, drivers in the greater Dayton area are expected to follow the trend and travel. Nearly 101,700 greater Dayton-area travelers will drive to their destinations. Of that amount, 91%, or 92,273, will travel by car, a 4.2% increase since last year, while 8%, or 7,689 people. will travel by air, a 22.4% increase.

“(With) the reduction of masks on airplanes … I think people are feeling a lot more comfortable traveling about,” Hitchens said.

U.S. 35 and I-75 interchange during rush hour Thursday May 19, 2022.

Credit: Jim Noelker

The Memorial Day holiday travel period is defined as Thursday to Monday, May 30, but the busiest travel days and times will be Thursday and Friday, as afternoon commuters mix with holiday travelers, AAA said.

Nationwide, AAA is predicting 39.2 million people will travel 50 miles or more from home this Memorial Day weekend. That’s an increase of 8.3% over 2021, bringing travel volumes almost in line with those in 2017. Air travel continues to rebound, up 25% over last year, the second-largest increase since 2010.

With volumes closing in on pre-pandemic levels, AAA is urging travelers who haven’t already done so to book now and remember that flexibility is key for Memorial Day weekend travel.

Air travel volume, which began to rally last Thanksgiving, will hit levels just shy of 2019 with 3 million people expected to take to the skies this Memorial Day weekend, AAA said. The percentage of people traveling by air will surpass 2019 levels with 7.7% of travelers choosing air travel as their preferred mode. It was 7.5% in 2019.

The price of gas, which seems to continue in its upward trajectory, likely won’t affect travelers’ plans for the holiday weekend, she said.

A survey recently conducted by AAA showed that more than 40% of those surveyed say gas prices were not even a consideration in their travel planning but more than 40% of those surveyed say they are taking fewer or shorter trips because of gas prices. In addition, more than 15% of those surveyed say they will adjust their budget for lodging or dining out because of gas prices

Of those who say they are staying home or are unsure about their summer travel plans, more than 40 percent cite gas prices as the biggest factor influencing that decision.

“Even at the $4 price point, people were still going to travel,” Hitchens said. “I feel like we kind of eased into it and now we’re at what, $4.50? If we hit $5 (this summer), and that’s a real possibility, I would really be curious myself to know people’s feelings on it and how much that impacts their travel.”

GasBuddy, a tech company that operates apps and websites based on finding real-time fuel prices at gas stations, on Thursday released the results of its annual summer travel survey revealing that even with record high gasoline prices, 58% of Americans intend to road trip this summer, a rise from last summer, when gas prices were nearly $1.50 per gallon lower.

“While the high prices may not stand in the way of Americans summer travel plans, nearly two-thirds have yet to confirm their plans, with 38% saying that high inflation is leading to difficulty in planning summer trips,” the company said.


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