(NEW YORK) — With the unofficial start of summer almost here — AAA projects 42.3 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home this Memorial Day weekend, a 7% increase over last year.
“This is expected to be the third busiest Memorial Day weekend since 2000,” Paula Twidale, senior vice president of AAA Travel, said in a statement. “This summer travel season could be one for the record books, especially at airports.”
AAA says nearly 3.4 million people will take to the skies over the holiday, up 11% from 2022 and 5.4% from 2019.
The most popular U.S. destinations this year are Las Vegas, Atlanta, and Dallas, according to online travel booking platform Hopper. Internationally, the top spots are Cancun and Toronto, Hopper said.
U.S. airfare down, but international prices are steep
Travelers staying in the U.S. over the Memorial Day holiday will pay “considerably less” than what they did last year and even pre-pandemic, according to Hopper economist Haley Berg.
Berg told ABC that last-minute domestic airfare is averaging $275 per ticket — about $100 cheaper than last year and about 6% lower than pre-pandemic Memorial Day weekend ticket prices.
“Most of the improvement in prices just has to do with a bit of a relief on costs on the airline side, with jet fuel prices coming down a little bit since this time last year, demand normalizing at this time last year,” Berg said in an interview with ABC News. “We were in the real peak of the demand surge coming out of that last wave of COVID, and so these factors have normalized considerably this year, which is bringing some relief on prices compared to what we saw last year.”
Airfare to international destinations won’t come so cheap, Berg said. Roundtrip tickets to Europe, a number one destination for American travelers, are up more than 50% from last year, averaging around $1,300 per ticket, according to Hopper.
“The big shocker is airfare to Europe right now,” Berg said. “For those travelers who did plan an international getaway to Europe over Memorial Day weekend, they’re paying the highest fares that we’ve seen in more than five years.”
Best times and days to beat road traffic
Car travel this holiday will be up from last year. AAA projects 37.1 million Americans will hit the roads over Memorial Day weekend — a 6% increase from last year.
To beat traffic, experts say you should plan to drive in the morning or on Saturday, May 27 and Sunday, May 28 when road traffic is expected to be lightest.
“Knowing when and where congestion will build can help drivers avoid the stress of sitting in traffic,” Bob Pishue, transportation analyst at INRIX, said in a release. “Our advice is to avoid driving during peak hours or use alternative routes.”
Drivers will also see lower gas prices heading into the holiday weekend. According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), prices averaged $3.53 a gallon last week. The same time last year, the national average was over $4 a gallon.
“With lower fuel prices and more travelers on the road compared to last year, drivers should expect long delays this holiday weekend, especially in and around major metros as commuters mix with Memorial Day travelers,” Pishue said.
Hotel and rental car rates significantly lower
If you’re looking to rent a car while you’re on vacation, you’re in luck: The average price for a rental is $44 a day, which is down 17% from last year, according to Hopper. The platform’s data shows that the top destinations for rental car pickups are Florida, Los Angeles, Chicago and Las Vegas.
Hotel prices are also down this year. According to Hopper, prices have dropped to an average of $208 per night — 6% lower than 2022.
And domestic travelers will have it cheaper than international travelers. Hotel prices in the U.S. are 15% cheaper than international rates, according to Hotels.com.
Tips for booking a last-minute trip
For those looking to take a last-minute trip over the upcoming three-day weekend, experts say there’s still time to make plans.
“Just because airfare is more expensive than in previous years, that doesn’t mean that cheap flights or great airfare deals are nonexistent,” Katy Nastro, spokesperson for Going, told ABC. “You just have to be a little bit more strategic in how you find them.”
Nastro says booking two one-way fares instead of one round-trip can sometimes help you save cash. Another tip is to see if booking your departure and return on different airlines will end up costing less.
“That roundtrip price might be actually more expensive on one airline versus if I flew from New York to Chicago on American and then from Chicago back to New York on Delta,” Nastro said.
Nastro said taking some extra time to see if flying out of an alternate airport can also save some cash, even if it takes more time to get to the airport.
“Think a little bit outside of your box,” said Nastro. “It might be a little bit more time on the road or travel time overall, but you could end up saving overall in the end and your wallet will thank you.”
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