How to Avoid the Memorial Day 2023 Travel Rush

It’s expected that over 42 million Americans will be traveling for Memorial Day weekend this year. A marked increase from 2022, it will represent one of the busiest Memorial Day weekends on record.

Between Thursday, May 25 and Monday, May 29, AAA anticipates that 42.3 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from their homes. Americans plan to travel by plane, train, bus, car, and more.

Memorial Day is considered the unofficial start of summer, and sometimes seen as an indicator of that season’s travel trends. The estimated 2023 figure represents a 7% increase compared to Memorial Day 2022.

“This is expected to be the third busiest Memorial Day weekend since 2000, when AAA started tracking holiday travel,” Paula Twidale, senior vice president of AAA Travel, said in a statement. “More Americans are planning trips and booking them earlier, despite inflation. This summer travel season could be one for the record books, especially at airports.”

If You’re Driving

Of the 42.3 million planning to travel, more than 37 million will be taking a road trip. This is a 6 percent increase compared to Memorial Day 2022 and is likely spurred by lower gas prices, according to AAA.

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Travelers who are driving should avoid heading out on Friday, May 26 if they want to beat the traffic. Friday is expected to be the busiest day on the roads. The least crowded driving days will be Saturday, May 27 and Sunday, May 28. The best times of day to drive are in the mornings or after 6pm. Major metropolitan areas like Boston, New York, Seattle, and Tampa will likely see travel times double compared to normal.


Pie chart and table breaking down Memorial Day travel in 2019 and 2022, plus 2023 projections.

If You’re Flying

When it comes to air travel, nearly 3.4 million Americans are expected to fly over Memorial Day. This marks an 11 percent increase compared to 2022 and a 5.4 percent increase compared to Memorial Day 2019. In fact, this year’s holiday weekend might be the busiest for airports since 2005, according to the AAA report.

AAA booking data shows a 40 precent increase in airfare to this year’s ‘Top Destinations.’ But that’s not stopping travelers from booking flights abroad. International travel is surging, with bookings 250 percent higher this holiday weekend compared to 2022. European cities are the most popular, including Rome, Paris, Dublin, London, Barcelona, and Athens. International car rentals are up more than 80 percent over 2022.

If You’re Taking the Bus, Train, or a Boat

Other modes of transportation are also seeing a notable bump, with 1.85 million people expected to take a bus or train. This is a 20.6 percent increase compared to Memorial Day 2022. And domestic cruise bookings are up a shocking 50 percent compared to last year (with port cities in Florida, Alaska, and Seattle in high demand for summer).

Other popular U.S. cities this Memorial Day include Denver, Boston, Anaheim, and Canton, Ohio – home of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. “We are seeing a demand for iconic cities, international vacation packages, and cruises with included amenities that provide more value for the price,” Twidale said.

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