2023 Travel Volume will be Third Busiest on Record

PORTLAND, Ore., – Memorial Day 2023 is expected to be the third busiest on record. AAA projects 42.3 million Americans (12.6% of the population) will travel 50 miles or more from home this Memorial Day weekend. This is an increase of 7% over 2022. In all, 2.7 million more people will travel for the unofficial start of summer compared to last year, a sign of a busy summer travel season ahead.

In the Pacific Region, Region (AK, CA, HI, OR, WA), 7.3 million people (13.7% of the population) are expected to travel, an 8.4% increase compared to 2022.

About 578,000 Oregonians will travel over the long weekend. The Memorial Day travel period is defined as Thursday, May 25 through Monday, May 29.

“Memorial Day 2023 will likely be one for the record books. Despite inflation, more Americans are planning trips and booking them earlier. Air travel in particular is seeing a significant bump, even with higher airfare. AAA expects travel will remain robust all summer long,” says Doreen Loofburrow, Senior Vice President of Travel at AAA Oregon/Idaho.

While nearly 88% of Memorial Day travelers will drive to their Memorial Day destinations, air travel is projected to exceed pre-pandemic levels, up 11% over last year. In all, 8% of Memorial Day travelers will fly for the holiday.

AAA urges travelers to book now and be as flexible as possible when planning Memorial Day and summer getaways. In the past, travelers might have been able to save when booking at the last minute, but that’s unlikely this year due to limited capacity.

“Flights, accommodations, rental cars, camping, tours, cruises and other activities are in high demand. If you haven’t booked yet, do it as soon as possible. Being flexible is key. Look to travel on off-peak days and times, pick a hidden gem off the beaten path, or consider taking a cruise or staying at an all-inclusive resort to limit the cost of things like rental cars, and a la carte dining and entertainment,” adds Loofburrow.

“Memorial Day 2023 is expected to be the third busiest since the year 2000 when AAA started tracking holiday travel. This year’s travel volume lags only behind 2005 and 2019,” says Marie Dodds, public affairs director for AAA Oregon/Idaho.

AAA Memorial Day Travel Forecast 2023
AAA Memorial Day Travel Forecast 2023

Travel agents, travel insurance are travel essentials:

AAA recommends working with a travel agent and considering travel insurance options. “A travel agent is an expert on the destinations you’ll be visiting and can help you plan a trip that meets your needs and budget. They’ve been there, done that and can help you get the most out of your travel dollars. And if something goes wrong or you need to make last-minute changes, your travel agent becomes your advocate,” says Loofburrow.

AAA strongly recommends travel insurance to cover unexpected delays or trip interruptions. Travel insurance provides a safety net should something unexpected happen ahead of or during your trip. Travel agents can also advise on what travel insurance policy makes the most sense for your trip.

Visit AAA.com/travel or call (800) 529-3222 to reach a AAA travel agent.

Top Memorial Day Destinations

AAA booking data reveals that theme parks, big cities and beaches are the most popular destinations domestically and abroad, based on searches and bookings by members of AAA Oregon/Idaho. International travel is surging with bookings 250% higher this holiday weekend compared to 2022.

AAA Memorial Day Travel Forecast 2023

Other favorite regional destinations for Memorial Day include the Oregon coast, central Oregon, and Crater Lake.

AAA reports strong sales for International Driving Permits this year, almost double what they were last year. The passport courier service RushMyPassport is also seeing an unprecedented number of applications for expedited passport and visa services this year.

AAA offers an entire library of digital resources to make your trip more enjoyable and it’s all available in one convenient spot at AAA.com/TripCanvas.  If you are looking for maps or our Digital TourBooks, visit AAA.com/maps. You can download entire books or print the pages you’d like to bring with you. The TripTik Travel Planner provides turn-by-turn directions to keep you on the best route. With the AAA mobile app, you can request emergency road service, book a last-minute hotel, and even find the cheapest fuel and closest EV charging stations along the way. Download it at AAA.com/mobile or visit the App Store or Google Play.

Road Trips most popular way to travel

Most Memorial Day travelers will take a road trip. In all, 37.1 million Americans will drive to their destinations, an increase of 6% over 2022. About two million more will go by car compared to last year. Still, car travel this holiday will be shy of pre-pandemic numbers by about 500,000 travelers.

In Oregon, roughly 477,000 will drive to their Memorial Day destinations.

AAA Memorial Day Travel Forecast 2023

Air Travel sees significant boost; travel by other modes jumps

Air travel is expected to exceed pre-pandemic levels. Nearly 3.4 million travelers are expected to fly to their destinations this Memorial Day, that’s an increase of 11% over last year. About 170,000 more people – a 5.4% increase – will fly than in 2019. Despite high ticket prices, demand for flights is skyrocketing. This Memorial Day weekend could be the busiest at airports since 2005.

In Oregon, approximately 63,000 will fly to their Memorial Day destinations.

Airlines have experienced everything from pilot and staffing shortages to delays caused by severe weather and mechanical issues. This has resulted in flight cancellations which have been a recurring issue since air travel began to rebound after the pandemic.

“With high travel volumes expected for Memorial Day and all summer long, AAA continues to recommend the safety net of a travel agent and travel insurance,” says Loofburrow. “Both are invaluable if the unexpected impacts your travel plans.”

AAA Memorial Day Travel Forecast 2023

Tips for those flying this Memorial Day:

  • Check your airline’s website or download their app to keep up to date on your flight status, including checking one last time right before you leave for the airport
  • Check-in online for flights 24 hours ahead
  • Arrive at the airport at least two hours early for domestic flights and three hours for international. Security lines may be longer than usual due to potential staffing issues and the increase in travelers.
  • Consider booking a flight during non-peak travel periods to cut down on wait times. In general, early morning flights tend to have fewer delays and cancellations than flights later in the day.
  • Sign up for TSA PreCheck before your trip. However, even these expedited security check-in lanes will be busier than usual.
  • Avoid checking a bag if possible. Bring all medications in your carry-on bag, as well as snacks and a change of clothes. That way you’ll have provisions if your checked bag gets lost or delayed.
  • Plan ahead for meals and snacks. Most airlines have limited meal offerings. Some airlines let you pre-order food for your flight.

About 4.4% of Memorial Day travelers will travel by other modes including cruise ships, buses, and trains. This adds up to 1.85 million, up 20.6% over 2022.

AAA Memorial Day Travel Forecast 2023

Thursday and Friday Afternoons are Busiest Times on the Roads

INRIX, a global transportation analytics company, predicts drivers will encounter the longest travel delays before the holiday weekend, particularly during the afternoons on Thursday, May 25 and Friday, May 26 between about 3 and 7 p.m. Delays on major roads could be two to three times longer than normal travel times as holiday travelers mix with commuters.

“Traffic will be busier than usual throughout the Memorial Day holiday weekend, but knowing the best and worst times to drive can help you avoid major congestion. Avoid the peak times and try to avoid urban areas when traffic is heaviest.  Whenever you go, expect it to take longer than usual to reach your destination,” says Dodds.

The best times to drive over the Memorial Day period are in the morning and late evening on Thursday and Friday, and before 10 a.m. on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday.

AAA Memorial Day Travel Forecast 2023

Gas prices significantly lower this year

The national and Oregon averages for regular gas are much lower than a year ago when they were at record highs for Memorial Day. In 2022, the national average was $4.62 and the Oregon average was $5.20.

The national average is currently $3.58 and the Oregon average is $4.25 (as of May 27). Find current gas prices at https://gasprices.aaa.com/

AAA Memorial Day Travel Forecast 2023

Airfare more expensive, hotels similar, rental cars cost less this year

Air—AAA finds that the average lowest airfare for U.S. destinations is about the same as a year ago, coming in at $183 per ticket compared to $184 in 2022. However, AAA booking data shows a 40% increase in airfare to this year’s top destinations.

Hotels—AAA two-diamond properties are up about 2% with an average nightly rate of $204. AAA three-diamond properties average $235 per night, down 8% compared to 2022.

Car Rentals—Daily car rental rates have decreased 14% compared to last year, with the average lowest rate coming in at $86 per day compared to $100 per day last year. Rental car companies have continued to build up their inventories after shortages in 2021.

AAA to the rescue this Memorial Day weekend

AAA expects to rescue more than 460,000 motorists nationally and 8,280 in Oregon this Memorial Day weekend, with the most common issues being dead batteries, lockouts and flat tires. 

AAA makes it easy to request assistance—by phone or text (1-800-AAA-HELP), app or online—and members can track the service technician’s progress as they make their way to your vehicle.

Make sure your car is road-trip ready. Have your vehicle inspected by a trusted repair shop, such as one of the more than 7,000 AAA Approved Auto Repair facilities across North America.

Be prepared for emergencies with a mobile phone and car charger and/or charging cable, a flashlight with extra batteries, a first-aid kit, a basic toolkit, and drinking water and snacks for all passengers and pets. Share your itinerary with family or friends so that authorities know where to start looking for you if you don’t reach your destination.

AAA Memorial Day Travel Forecast 2023

Forecast methodology

In cooperation with AAA, S&P Global Market Intelligence developed a unique methodology to forecast actual domestic travel volumes. The economic variables used to forecast travel for the current holiday are leveraged from S&P Global Market Intelligence’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 gasoline prices, airline travel, and hotel stays. AAA and S&P Global Market Intelligence 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 SPGMI 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 17, 2023.

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.

Find current fuel prices at GasPrices.AAA.com.

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Find local news releases at https://oregon.aaa.com/community/media/media-contacts.html

Fuel prices are updated daily at AAA’s Daily Fuel Gauge at AAA Gas Prices. For more info go www.AAA.com.  AAA Oregon/Idaho provides more than 880,000 members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services, and is an affiliate of AAA National, serving more than 63 million motorists in North America.