By Andrew Keshner
Three million more Americans are expected to travel this Memorial Day Weekend compared to last year, according to projections from AAA .
Overall, 39.2 million travelers will be taking to the roads and skies, according to AAA estimates. That’s an 8.3% increase from the 36.2 million travelers who set out to see friends and family in the first Memorial Day Weekend after COVID-19 vaccines became widely available.
This year’s projected Memorial Day travelers, mostly by car, are still off from pre-pandemic levels. In 2019, 42.8 million drove at least 50 miles or booked flights, AAA said. That’s a decrease of more than 8%.
Google (NAS:GOOG) searches for “gas station prices” and “gas prices near me” ticked up on Friday as people prepared to take off for the holiday weekend. Some 34.9 million cars were expected to hit the road, AAA said.
Drivers can expect a tiny bit of relief at the pump: The national average price for a gallon of gas was $4.59 as of Thursday, down a penny from the previous day’s average, AAA said.
When Americans were firming up their Memorial Day plans one year ago, the national average price was $3.04 per gallon, according to AAA data.
The surge in gas prices could prompt at least some travelers to revisit their holiday weekend or summer road trip plans. “Against a backdrop of gas prices that have continued to set new records ahead of Memorial Day, Americans have been resilient in their desire to hit the road, but we’re certainly seeing increased hesitancy due to rising prices at the pump,” said Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis for GasBuddy.
AAA is estimating 3 million people will fly over the weekend, up from the 2.4 million who flew over Memorial Day weekend last year, but down from the 3.2 million flying passengers in 2019.
Flyers will be paying more this year, with airfares up 28% compared to 2019, according to a Memorial Day air travel outlook from Hopper, a site to shop for flights and hotels. Round trip domestic airfare will cost $394 on average and international round trips will cost an average $917, according to Hopper.
Record-high inflation has led to widespread uncertainty over the costs of vacation plans, De Haan added. “The COVID factor is still present, but has been dwarfed this year by Americans’ concern over high gas prices and dwindling affordable travel options to make use of the best months of the year.”
The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DOW:DJIA) , S&P 500 (S&P:SPX) and Nasdaq Composite (NASDAQ:COMP) closed up on Friday.
(Quentin Fottrell contributed to this story.)