A strong economy and weaker gas prices should help boost travel numbers this Memorial Day holiday weekend. The Auto Club Group forecasts the strongest kick-off to the summer travel season since 2005, and the second-largest travel volume on record – dating back to 2000.
- Total Travelers – 2.3 million Floridians; 86,000 (3.9%) more than last year
- Auto Travelers – 2 million Floridians; 76,000 (3.9%) more than last year
- Air Travelers – 184,443 Floridians; 9,000 (5.3%) more than last year
- Other Travelers – 60,655 Floridians; 321 (0.5%) more than last year
National Travel Figures
- Total Travelers – 42.8 million Americans; 1.5 million (3.6%) more than last year
- Auto Travelers – 37.6 million Americans; 1.3 million (3.5%) more than last year
- Air Travelers – 3.25 million Americans; 150,000 (4.8%) more than last year
- Other Travelers – 1.9 million Americans; 69,000 (3.8%) more than last year
“Floridians are eagerly anticipating the start of summer, and gas prices should not be a deterrent,” said Mark Jenkins, spokesman, AAA – The Auto Club Group. “Consumer spending remains strong, helped by solid job and income growth. Families continue to allocate their disposable incomes on travel, and a near-record number of them will do just that for Memorial Day.”
Drivers beware: Worst times to hit the road
For the 37.6 million Americans traveling by automobile, AAA predicts drivers will experience the greatest amount of congestion on Thursday, May 23rd and Friday, May 2th in the late afternoons as commuters leave work early and mix with holiday travelers.
Some of the most congested areas will be popular attractions, theme parks, and beaches. Drivers returning home are most likely to encounter congested roads on Sunday or Monday afternoons.
Declining gas prices should help holiday travelers
Florida drivers could find the lowest Memorial Day gas prices in two years. Last year, the state average for gasoline on Memorial Day was $2.91 per gallon.
“Holiday travelers who save at the pump generally reallocate that money toward lodging, shopping or dining out,” said Mark Jenkins, spokesman, AAA – The Auto Club Group.
“Cheaper gasoline could also help convince undecided travelers to take a trip for the holiday. Gas prices are steadily declining, and there’s a good chance that holiday gas prices remain below last year’s levels. However, the fuel market is still quite volatile, and there’s plenty of time for prices to rise again.”
In 2018, the most expensive gas prices of the year were in the days leading up to Memorial Day weekend. The 2018-high of $2.92 per gallon was recorded the Friday before Memorial Day.
The biggest difference between now and then is the price of oil, which is about $10 per barrel less than a year ago. In 2017, the trend was different. The highest prices of spring 2017 were in April.
Similar to the downturn in gas prices, hotel and car rental prices are lower this year, while airfares hold steady. According to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index:
- Car rental prices have declined 7% compared to last year, with an average daily rate of $55.
- Mid-range hotels are between 2% and 3% cheaper this year, with an average nightly rate of $146 and $183, respectively for AAA Two and Three Diamond Rated properties.
- Airfares are holding steady compared with last Memorial Day, for an average round trip price of $171.
- Orlando to have the busiest rental car pick-up location
According to Hertz, a more than 40-year AAA partner, the busiest airport pick-up locations for travelers renting a car this Memorial Day are expected to be Orlando (MCO), Los Angeles (LAX), Denver (DEN), Las Vegas (LAS), and San Francisco (SFO).
The busiest day for rental pick-ups is expected to be Friday, May 24, with an average rental length of nearly five days, as travelers look to take advantage of the long holiday weekend