AAA: Memorial Day Travel to Rebound to 37 Million

485,000 Oregonians expected to kick off summer with a trip

PORTLAND, Ore., – AAA projects a significant rebound in the number of Americans planning to travel this Memorial Day holiday weekend with 37 million Americans (11.2% of the population) expected to travel 50 miles or more from home. This is up 60% from last year when only 23 million traveled, the lowest on record since AAA began recording in 2000.

Memorial Day Travel 2021

In the Pacific Region, Region (AK, CA, HI, OR, WA), 6.2 million people (11.5% of the population) are expected to travel, a 64% increase compared to 2020. In Oregon, roughly 485,000 will travel over the long weekend. The Memorial Day holiday travel period is defined as Thursday, May 27 to Monday, May 31.

The expected strong increase in demand from last year’s holiday, which fell during the early phase of the coronavirus pandemic, still represents 13%—or nearly 6 million—fewer travelers than in 2019. AAA urges those who choose to travel this year to exercise caution and take measures to protect themselves and others as the pandemic continues.

“We’re seeing a strong pent-up demand for travel for Memorial Day and the summer months, after a year in which most of us stayed home. As more people get vaccinated, they are eager to get out and take trips again,” says Doreen Loofburrow, Senior Vice President of Travel at AAA Oregon/Idaho. “However, it’s important to remember that the pandemic isn’t over yet, and we all have to do our part to make sure that travel is as safe as possible.”

AAA notes that the actual number of holiday travelers could fluctuate as we approach Memorial Day. If there is an increase in reported cases attributed to new COVID-19 variants, some people may decide to stay home, while others may note the progress in vaccinations and make last-minute decisions to travel.

AAA recommends working with a travel agent, who can help if you need to make any last-minute changes to travel plans as well as explore travel insurance options and help you plan a vacation that meets your needs and comfort level this summer. AAA also advises travelers to book your lodging, camping, attractions and rental cars before leaving home.

Another factor contributing to the expected increase in travel this holiday is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) recently updated guidance that fully vaccinated people can travel domestically at low risk to themselves, while taking proper precautions.

For travelers who are not vaccinated but choose to travel, CDC recommends that you practice social distancing, wear a mask, wash your hands and get tested before and after travel. Whether you are vaccinated or not, remember masks are required on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation traveling into, within, or out of the United States and in U.S. transportation hubs such as airports and stations.

AAA has developed an interactive TripTik map with local and state COVID-19 travel restrictions at AAA.com/Covidmap.  Just click on the destination you’d like to visit for the latest information Find AAA’s latest COVID-19 information for travelers here.

AAA Covidmap
Find the latest COVID-19 travel restrictions and mandates at AAA.com/Covidmap.

AAA Covidmap

Top Memorial Day Destinations:

AAA Travel is seeing significant recent increases in online traffic and bookings on AAA.com, particularly for hotels and car rentals, heading into the summer travel season. Domestic travel and road trips remain the most popular.

The national parks in Utah and Hawaii are the most popular destinations this Memorial Day, based on searches and bookings made by members of AAA Oregon/Idaho:

Road Trips:

  1. Utah National Parks
  2. Central Oregon
  3. Yellowstone National Park
  4. Northern California
  5. Montana

 AAA Travel Bookings:

  1. Honolulu, HI
  2. Maui, HI
  3. Las Vegas, NV
  4. Orlando, FL
  5. Cancun, Mexico

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

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/maps. Digital TourBooks are filled with points of interest and other helpful information. 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.

Road Trips most popular way to travel

 Nearly 93% of Memorial Day travelers will drive to their destinations, as many Americans continue to prefer road trips over travel by planes, trains and other modes of transportation. In all, 34 million Americans will go by car, an increase of 52% over last year but still 9% less than in 2019.

Memorial Day Travel 2021

Air Travel sees huge jump; travel by other modes falls

After a historically low year of air travel in 2020, this Memorial Day will see nearly 2.5 million Americans boarding airplanes, nearly six times more than last year (+577%). Still, 750,000 fewer people will take to the skies this holiday compared to 2019. AAA reminds air travelers that masks are required in all airports and on flights.

Memorial Day Travel 2021

In Oregon, approximately 46,000 will fly to their Memorial Day destinations.

Meanwhile, just 237,000 Americans are expected to travel by other modes, including bus and train, this Memorial Day. This is the second-lowest volume on record, higher only than the 185,000 who traveled in 2020. In 2021, travel via these modes will be 88% below 2019 levels.

2021 Memorial Day Holiday Travelers
Total Automobile Air Other

(Bus, Train, Cruise)

2021 (Forecast) 37.1M 34.4M 2.5M 237,000
2020 (Actual)* 23.1M 22.6M 363,000 185,000
2019 (Actual) 42.8M 37.6M 3.2M 1.9M
Change (2019 to 2021) −13.3% −8.7% −23.4% −87.5%
Change (2020 to 2021) +60% +52.4% +577.5% +28.0%

*AAA did not issue a Memorial Day holiday travel forecast in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, actual travel volumes were recorded after the holiday for comparison purposes this year.

Thursday and Friday Afternoons are Busiest Times on the Roads

INRIX, a global transportation analytics company, expects travel delays on major roads could be two to three times longer than normal at times in cities as holiday travels mix with commuters. Busiest travel times will be Thursday and Friday afternoons (May 27 and 28) from about 3 to 7 p.m.

“Our advice to car travelers is to avoid leaving during the afternoon and early evening hours on Thursday and Friday if at all possible. Although vehicle trips are down as much as 40% in some areas, afternoon congestion is nearly back to pre-pandemic levels. Plan your trip so that you won’t have to drive through urban areas during these times. Know that it will probably take longer than usual to reach your destination and count on busy roadways,” says Marie Dodds, public affairs director for AAA Oregon/Idaho.

Gas prices much higher than last year

Gas prices are about $1 higher than a year ago, when demand plummeted as much of the country was under stay-at-home orders.

The national average is currently $2.99 and the Oregon average is $3.35 (as of May 11). Find current gas prices at https://gasprices.aaa.com/.

Memorial Day Gas Prices 2010 - 2020

Drivers can expect the national average to be the most expensive since 2014 with the national average possibly more expensive than $3 a gallon.

The Oregon average will be the most expensive in two years.

Currently, the Colonial Pipeline, which delivers 45% of fuel to the East Coast is offline due to a cyberattack, which will contribute to price increases and limited fuel supply ahead of the holiday. This will affect areas from Mississippi to Tennessee and the east coast from Georgia into Delaware, but hopefully be resolved ahead of Memorial Day weekend. Other regions, including the West Coast, will see little impact.

AAA says higher gas prices are not keeping people home. “When gas prices are expensive, many travelers will find other ways to save some money, such as shortening the duration of a trip, staying closer to home, limiting restaurant meals and/or eating at moderately priced restaurants, trimming shopping budgets, and looking for free or low cost activities,” says Dodds.

Summer Fuel Supply

As gasoline demand increases, gas stations are working to adjust delivery schedules to keep pace. However, there have been instances where a few stations are seeing low to no supply at pumps for a few days due to delayed deliveries. Central and Southern Oregon were two areas impacted by temporary and limited gasoline outages last month.

Over the holiday weekend, some gas stations in popular travel destinations—like beaches and mountain areas—may experience temporary outages. “It is important to understand this is not a market-wide impact, as fuel can be found at other stations within a market. There’s no gas supply shortage in the U.S.; there’s plenty of gasoline across the country. Rather, it’s a matter of delivery delays caused in part by a shortage of fuel truck drivers,” adds Dodds.

As a rule of thumb in general, AAA recommends that drivers consider filling up when their fuel level hits a quarter of a tank.

AAA to the rescue this Memorial Day weekend

AAA expects to rescue more than 468,000 motorists nationally and 7,000 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, a flashlight with extra batteries, a first-aid kit, a basic toolkit, and drinking water and snacks for all passengers and pets. Bring extra masks and cleaning supplies, including disinfecting wipes. Share your itinerary with family or friends so that authorities know where to start looking for you if you don’t reach your destination.

Visit AAA.com/covidmap for an interactive map with the latest travel restrictions and policies for North America. Find AAA’s latest COVID-19 information for travelers here.

Memorial Day Travel 2021

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

For more info go www.AAA.com.  AAA Oregon/Idaho provides more than 850,000 members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services, and is an affiliate of AAA National, serving more than 62 million motorists in North America.