DENVER (May 25, 2022) - Memorial Day weekend is expected to be the busiest in three years, building on a travel resurgence that began earlier this spring. AAA's annual travel forecast for 2022 marks the second highest single-year increase in travelers since 2010, following only 2021.
AAA predicts that 730,000 Coloradans will join the ranks of 39.2 million Americans traveling for the holiday weekend. All told, 8.3% more Americans are traveling this year over last, bringing travel volumes in line with where they were in 2017.
"Despite rising prices and continued uncertainties about COVID-19, Coloradans have made one thing clear: They're ready to travel," said Skyler McKinley, regional director of public affairs for AAA. "Travel comfort has hit a two-year high, with reservations for flights, hotels, and cruises for Memorial Day weekend running twice as strong as last year. All signs point to that momentum carrying into the summer."
Travel Confidence Surges - Air Travel Nears Pre-Pandemic Levels
New AAA survey data has found that 80% of Coloradans currently feel comfortable traveling - more than at any other time since the pandemic began. That's up from 47% at this time last year.
That increased comfort is driving growth across all modes of transportation this year, especially air travel. Nationwide, air travel volumes are forecast to rise 28% from last year in the second-largest yearly increase in more than a decade. The number of Americans expected to fly this Memorial Day, 3 million, falls just shy of 2019 levels. Still, at 7.7%, a higher percentage of travelers are choosing to fly than in 2019.
90% of Travelers will Drive, Despite Record-High Gas Prices
Despite historically high gas prices, 90% of Memorial Day travelers plan to get up and go by car - including 652,000 Coloradans.
Gas prices for Memorial Day will be the highest on record. A combination of tightened global supplies and strong demand are expected to continue to drive pump prices up through the summer travel season.
As of Tuesday, May 24, the average price for gasoline in Colorado is $4.16. That's up from $3.12 in 2021, $2.06 in 2020, and $2.87 in 2019. When Colorado gas prices were last setting records, in 2008, the average price for a gallon over Memorial Day was $3.92.
"Record high gas prices and other inflationary pressures aren't discouraging Coloradans from travel," McKinley said. "Per our survey data, many may look at cost-cutting measures - like driving shorter distances, staying in cheaper hotels, or spending less on shopping, dining, and entertainment - but they're going to travel, no matter what."
Air - AAA finds that the average lowest airfare is 6% more than last year, at $179 per ticket. Saturday will be the most expensive day to fly and Monday will be the cheapest.
Hotels - Mid-range hotel rates have increased about 43%, with the average lowest nightly rates running around $198 per night for AAA Approved Hotels.
Car Rentals - Daily car rental rates have increased 170% over last year, with the average lowest rate coming in at $119/day.
Busiest Travel Days/Times
Air Travel - AAA booking data shows that Thursday will be the busiest day for air travel during the Memorial Day travel period, which runs from May 26 through May 30. Monday will be the lightest day.
Road Trips - Thursday and Friday will be the peak traffic days. To avoid the worst of it, travelers on those days should hit the roads before 7:00am or after 9:00pm. On Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, AAA advises travelers to start driving before 11:00am.
Reduce stress by:
• Arriving at the airport at least two hours early for domestic flights and three hours for international.
• Booking a flight during non-peak travel periods to cut down on wait times.
• Hitting the road when there's less traffic and budgeting extra time.
Big Cities and Beaches are Top Destinations
AAA booking data reveal that big cities and beaches are top destinations this Memorial Day, both domestically and abroad. Stateside, Denver will be the 7th most-visited destination, down three positions from last year in what remains a signal of persistent travel interest in the American West.
• Orlando, FL
• Seattle, WA
• Miami, FL
• Las Vegas, NV
• Anaheim, CA
• New York, NY
• Denver, CO
• Anchorage, AK
• Boston, MA
• Honolulu, HI
• Vancouver, Canada
• Dublin, Ireland
• Paris, France
• Rome, Italy
• London, England
• Cancun, Mexico
• Amsterdam, Netherlands
• Barcelona, Spain
• Nassau, Bahamas
• Calgary, Canada
AAA predicts drivers will encounter the longest travel delays before the holiday weekend, particularly during the afternoons on Thursday, May 26 and Friday, May 27. Drivers in major U.S. metros, including Denver and Colorado Springs, could experience double the travel times compared to a normal trip.
"Even with the increase in gas prices, we're predicting a large jump in holiday driving compared to the last few years," McKinley said. "That means congestion. Drivers can avoid the worst of it by getting a head start, but to some extent, traffic will be unavoidable. Keep a cool head when you're in a jam by remembering that you can't be stuck in traffic: You are traffic."
Prepare your vehicle: AAA will rescue 388,000 stranded motorists.
The 34.9 million Americans hitting the road can get their vehicles road-trip ready with a full-vehicle inspection. AAA forecasts it will respond to more than 388,000 calls for help over the Memorial Day holiday weekend. Get key components checked, including the battery, fuel system, tires, brakes, and fluid levels - and make sure your vehicle's emergency kit is fully stocked.
In cooperation with AAA, IHS Markit-- a world leader in critical information, analytics and expertise -- developed a unique methodology to forecast actual domestic travel volumes. The economic variables used to forecast travel for the current holiday are leveraged from IHS Markit's proprietary databases. These data include macroeconomic drivers such as employment; output; household net worth; asset prices including stock indices; interest rates; housing market indicators and variables related to travel and tourism, including prices of gasoline, airline travel and hotel stays. AAA and IHS Markit have quantified holiday travel volumes going back to 2000.
Historical travel volume estimates come from DK SHIFFLET's TRAVEL PERFORMANCE/Monitorsm. The PERFORMANCE/Monitorsm is a comprehensive study measuring the travel behavior of U.S. residents. DK SHIFFLET contacts over 50,000 U.S. households each month to obtain detailed travel data, resulting in the unique ability to estimate visitor volume and spending, identify trends, and forecast U.S. travel behavior -all after the trips have been taken.
The travel forecast is reported in person-trips. In particular, AAA and IHS Markit forecast the total U.S. holiday travel volume and expected mode of transportation. The travel forecast presented in this report was prepared the week of April 11, 2022.
Memorial Day Holiday Travel Period
For purposes of this forecast, the Memorial Day holiday travel period is defined as the five days from Thursday, May 26 to Monday, May 30. The five-day holiday length is consistent with previous holiday periods.
Started in 1902 by automotive enthusiasts who wanted to chart a path for better roads in America and advocate for safe mobility, AAA has transformed into one of North America's largest membership organizations. Today, AAA provides roadside assistance, travel, discounts, financial and insurance services to enhance the life journey of 62 million members across North America, including 56 million in the United States. To learn more about all AAA has to offer or to become a member, visit AAA.com.
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DK SHIFFLET boasts the industry's most complete database on U.S. resident travel both in the U.S. and worldwide. Data is collected monthly from a U.S. representative sample, adding over 60,000 traveling households annually and is used daily by leading travel organizations and their strategic planning groups. DK SHIFFLET is an MMGY Global company.
About AAA - The Auto Club Group
AAA Colorado is a proud part of The Auto Club Group (ACG), the second-largest AAA club in North America with more than 14 million members across 14 U.S. states, the province of Quebec and two U.S. territories. ACG and its affiliates provide members with roadside assistance, insurance products, banking and financial services, travel offerings and more. ACG belongs to the national AAA federation with more than 60 million members in the United States and Canada. AAA's mission is to protect and advance freedom of mobility and improve traffic safety. For more information, get the AAA Mobile app, visit AAA.com, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.