BOISE – Expensive fuel and pricey plane tickets won’t discourage another big increase in Memorial Day travel this year.

According to new projections by AAA, more than 39 million Americans (or nearly 12% of the U.S. population), including 224,000 Idahoans, will take a trip over the holiday weekend – an 8% increase from a year ago.  This year’s Memorial Day travel volume is three million more people than last year, and just 3.5 million below pre-pandemic levels.

“Every mode of travel continues to experience a strong rebound, despite periods of shaky consumer confidence and inflation that’s near a 40-year high,” says AAA Idaho public affairs director Matthew Conde.  “People are bound and determined to make up for lost time, even if it’s more expensive to fill-up a gas tank, book a hotel room, or catch a flight.”

The 2022 Memorial Day holiday period is defined as Thursday, May 26 through Monday, May 30.

Consumer sentiment hit an 11-year low in March due to rising food and energy prices, the war in Ukraine, and overall economic uncertainty.  While real disposable income is expected to fall by 4% compared to a year ago, consumer spending is projected to increase by 9% in the second quarter.

“When gas prices increase, travelers may try to reduce their other expenses, such as dining out or buying souvenirs,” Conde said.  “But since food, hotels, and just about everything else will be more expensive this year, it will take some careful planning to budget for a great vacation.”

By the numbers

  • Automobile travel will increase by nearly 5% to 34.9 million people. In 2020, 92% of all travelers went by car, compared with 89% this year.  About 1.5 million more people will load up in the family wagon this year than in 2021.
  • Air travel will increase by 25% to three million people, as more Americans seek to maximize their vacation time by flying. AAA reports that several airlines have reduced flight schedules due to staffing shortages and training time for new crews and ground support.  Those who plan to fly should expect crowded planes.

“Masks aren’t currently required on airplanes, but some airports still require them until passengers board their flight,” Conde said.  “Pack medications, snacks, a change of clothes, masks, and disinfectant wipes in your carry-on bag, and avoid traveling if you’re sick.”

  • After dipping to historic lows during the pandemic, travel by other modes, including cruises, trains, and buses, will increase to 1.3 million people, a 200% gain over 2021 levels.

Hotels and airfares more expensive, but rental car rates tap the brakes

On average, nightly rates for AAA Two and Three Diamond hotels will be about 42% higher than a year ago.  While the lowest prices for round trip flights will be about 6% higher than a year ago, the average Memorial Day ticket will be about $160 more than in 2021.  Average rental car daily rates will be down about 16%.

“Families will probably need to set their Memorial Day travel budget about 20 to 30% higher than last year,” Conde said.  “Using a credit card that offers rewards points on purchases like gas and groceries can put money back in your pocket, but only if you pay off your balance to avoid interest.”

AAA to the rescue

AAA predicts that it will provide roadside service to nearly 427,000 drivers over the holiday weekend, including 750 here in Idaho.  While roughly 40% of the disabled vehicles will need to be towed, other issues, like dead batteries, lockouts, and flat tires, can be prevented.

“As people get back to traveling in greater numbers, it’s a good reminder to get a pre-trip inspection from a trusted mechanic,” Conde said.  “Staying proactive on maintenance issues could prevent major issues and a lot of frustration later.”