Nearly 220,000 Idahoans will cross land, sea and sky for a holiday getaway

BOISE – (May 14, 2018) – Rising gas prices won’t dampen many Memorial Day weekend plans, with more than 41.5 million Americans making a journey to see friends and family this year, and nearly 220,000 Idahoans among them, according to a new report by AAA. That’s nearly two million more travelers than last year.  The five-day holiday is defined as Thursday, May 24 to Monday, May 28.

“The numbers have been steadily climbing over the last few years, but now they’re rocketing up to where we were in 2005,” says Matthew Conde, public affairs director for AAA Idaho. “The 4.8 percent increase in this year’s Memorial Day travel is nearly double the growth we saw in 2017.”

That will mean more crowds, more cars, and more airplanes filled to capacity. In collaboration with INRIX, AAA predicts that the greatest amount of congestion will occur on Thursday, May 24 and Friday, May 25 when afternoon commuters and travelers mix together.  This year, more travelers may extend their trips by leaving on Wednesday or by returning on the following Tuesday.  Idahoans heading through San Francisco, Seattle and Los Angeles may experience bigger crowds at the airport, especially with this year’s average airfare 7 percent lower than last year.

“It’s a familiar tune that we’ve heard for the past few years,” Conde said. “Consumer confidence is high and unemployment is low, so more travelers have disposable income.  People are pretty optimistic about the economy right now, and their travel plans prove it.”

Overall, travel for the Memorial Day weekend has increased by 11 million people since 2009’s Great Recession.


Auto travel still the most popular mode

Roughly 36.6 million motorists will depart on a great American road trip for the holiday, easily eclipsing the 34.9 million who did so last year. Although gas prices will be at their highest since 2014, AAA does not expect this to deter many Memorial Day travelers.  Here’s a look at Idaho’s recent Memorial Day prices: 2017 – $2.58; 2016 – $2.45; 2015 – $2.86; 2014 – $3.61; 2013 – $3.70.

While car travel is still the top option, the overall percentage has slipped slightly this year, as air travel has grown in popularity. Overall, 88.1 percent will make the trip by car.

Air travel is flying high

“Air travel will see the highest growth of all modes as more vacationers attempt to maximize their time at their end destination,” Conde said. “With a sizeable increase of 6.8 percent, we’re expecting more than 3 million people to take to the sky.”  Overall, 7.5 percent of travelers will fly.

According to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, the average cost for an airline ticket dropped by 7 percent this year and the average rate for a rental car decreased by 11 percent. These discounts, along with rising gas prices, make air travel a more attractive option, but few will change their travel plans at this point.


Hotel prices have people resting easy

The average price of a AAA Two-Diamond Hotel went up by just 7 percent (from $141 last year to $151), but an average night’s stay at a Three-Diamond property dropped by 14 percent (from $215 last year to $186), significantly narrowing the gap between the two.

“It’s a great value right now – a little extra money can really enhance a hotel stay this year,” Conde said.


Trains, buses and cruise ships pick up speed

This year, 1.8 million people will use these travel modes as part of their Memorial Day plans – an increase of 2.4 percent over last year for a total of 4.3 percent overall.


AAA to the rescue

With the rising number of travelers comes a higher projection for AAA’s roadside assistance over the long weekend. Across the country, the motoring organization expects to rescue roughly 340,000 motorists at the roadside.  The primary culprits stay the same – batteries, engine cooling systems, flat tires, and lockouts.

AAA recommends preventing many roadside issues through a pre-trip inspection at a trusted repair shop, but if the unexpected does occur, be prepared. Take along extra food and water, a flashlight with fresh batteries, a basic first-aid kit, and some type of flares or reflectors to signal for help if needed.

“Above all, don’t panic or get in a rush this holiday weekend,” Conde said. “Pushing to reach your destination a little sooner can lead to aggressive driving, or cause fatigue that results in drowsy driving.  Keep a positive attitude – better to get there late than never.”