Memorial Day travel volume could near record
May 17, 2017
• Sixth straight year of travel growth for the holiday
• “One significant trend we are seeing this year is solid growth in the number of air travelers”
There could be as many as 4.89 million Californians traveling to vacation getaways this Memorial Day weekend, approaching a record set more than a decade ago, according to the Automobile Club of Southern California.
It's the sixth consecutive year that the number of Memorial Day travelers has grown compared to the previous year. This year will have the largest number of Memorial Day travelers since the all-time record of 5.18 million statewide, which was set in 2005.
Statewide, about 84 percent of travelers, or 4.08 million, are expected to go by car, a 2.9 percent increase over 2016. About 485,000 statewide are projected to fly, a 6.2 percent increase from last year, and 456,000 will go by other means, a 4.9 percent increase from 2016, the AAA says.
The Auto Club defines a holiday trip as one at least 50 miles away from home, and the Memorial Day holiday travel period is defined as Thursday, May 25 to Monday, May 29.
"One significant trend we are seeing this year is solid growth in the number of air travelers, which also tends to signify longer vacations that are a greater distance away from home," says Filomena Andre, the Auto Club's vice president for travel.
Nationally, travel is expected to increase by 2.7 percent compared to last year's Memorial Day holiday, with 39.29 million travelers expected compared to 38.27 million in 2015. Car travel is expected to rise by 2.4 percent to 34.6 million, while air travel is expected to rise 5.5 percent this year to 2.9 million, and other modes of travel will increase by 2.9 percent to 1.75 million.
California gasoline prices are expected to hold steady, bobbing a bit under the $3 per gallon mark in the Central Valley on average -- the second cheapest price averages for this time of year since 2009.
According to Waze, the traffic and navigation app, Chicago, Los Angeles and New York are the busiest metro areas this Memorial Day weekend, based on last year's accident and traffic jam data. For travelers visiting or driving through these cities, be aware of high traffic volumes on Thursday and Friday -- New York City sees an average 27 percent increase in accident alerts on these two days, the Auto Club says.
Summer air travelers should allow extra time both to arrive at the airport and get through security lines, particularly if they are flying out of Los Angeles International Airport. LAX moved 15 airlines to different terminals in mid-May, which may cause additional traffic congestion throughout the summer.
Also, travelers to Europe should be aware that laptop computers may be banned as carry-on luggage on flights from Europe into the U.S. by the time they want to return home. Talks about such a ban are underway. The U.S. fears that terrorists could cram explosives into a laptop in an effort to blow up the plane.
Travelers should check with their individual airlines for complete details on carry-on policies, AAA says.
In cooperation with AAA, IHS Markit 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.
Historical travel volume estimates come from D.K. Shifflet & Associates’ Travel Performance/Monitors. The Performance/Monitors is a comprehensive study measuring the travel behavior of US residents. D.K. 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, forecast U.S. travel behavior and position brands — all after the trips have been taken.
The travel forecast is reported in person-trips. In particular, AAA and IHS Markit 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.