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AAA: Nearly 1.7 Million Ohioans Leaving Town for Unofficial Start of Summer

 AAA’s travel projection for Memorial Day in Ohio is the third busiest with 1.65 million travelers going 50 miles or more from home.  This year’s total number of travelers across the US is a 4% increase over last year at 43.8 million, making it the second busiest Memorial Day travel forecast.

Columbus Metro Travel Projections - Memorial Day 2024.png

“I think we can safely say that things have returned to normal as we see numbers climb year after year,” said Kara Hitchens, public affairs manager, AAA Club Alliance. “We’re projecting additional travelers this Memorial Day holiday weekend, nearly matching pre-pandemic levels but it is also an indication we are expecting a very busy summer travel season ahead.”

Roads are expected to be busy and crowded. AAA projects overall 38.4 million people will travel by car over Memorial Day weekend, the highest number for that holiday since AAA began tracking in 2000. In Ohio, this year marks the second highest number to travel by car at 1.5 million people going by car. The number of drivers this year is up 3.4%.

Traveling by car is appealing for many people because of the convenience and flexibility it provides. This Memorial Day weekend drivers can expect similar gas prices as last year when the national average was roughly $3.57.  Pump prices rose this spring but have held somewhat steady in recent weeks.  The wildcard remains the cost of oil, and unlike last year, there are now two wars – in the Middle East and Ukraine – that could roil the oil market.

AAA reminds drivers to get their vehicles serviced before venturing out on a road trip. “Having a break down while on vacation can not only ruin a good time, but also put drivers in jeopardy if stuck at the side of the road,” Hitchens adds.

For those flying this holiday airports are bracing for a spike in travelers. Overall AAA expects 3.51 million air travelers this holiday weekend, an increase of 4.8% over last year and 9% jump compared to 2019. This will be the most crowded Memorial Day weekend at airports since 2005, when 3.64 million flew for the holiday as the travel industry finally rebounded post 9/11.

In Ohio, air travel is up from last year – 3.3% – but it is still far off 2005’s record of 123,000 people. AAA is projecting 88,000 Ohioans will fly for the holiday this year.

This Memorial Day weekend, air ticket prices are comparable to last year. AAA booking data shows a 1% to 2% increase in prices for domestic flights. Several factors play into how much travelers pay for airfare, including destination, number of stops, and fare class. For example, passengers who book nonstop flights with seat selection and carry-on bags included will likely pay more than those who select basic economy with a layover.

Nearly two million people are expected to travel by other modes of transportation, including buses, cruises, and trains. AAA projects 1.9 million people will take these other modes of transportation, an increase of 5.6% compared to last year. In Ohio, AAA expects 62,616 people to travel by other means – that’s an 5% increase over last year.

“This category took the biggest hit during the pandemic with fewer people taking public transportation or not cruising at all,” said Paula Twidale, Senior Vice President of AAA Travel. “Now – five years later – we’re back to 2019 numbers. Travel demand has been soaring, and long holiday weekends create the perfect windows for getaways.”

Best/Worst Times to Drive and Peak Congestion by Metro

INRIX, a provider of transportation data and insights, says drivers leaving Thursday or Friday should hit the road early to avoid mixing with commuters. Travelers going back home on Sunday or Monday should avoid the afternoon hours when return trips will peak.

“Travel times are expected to be up to 90% longer than normal. Travelers should stay up to date on traffic apps, 511 services, and local news stations to avoid sitting in traffic longer than necessary,” said Bob Pishue, transportation analyst at INRIX.

Best and  Worst to Travel - Memorial Day 2024.png

Top Destinations

This Memorial Day weekend, travelers are seeking theme parks and entertainment venues in Orlando, New York, Las Vegas, and Southern California. Seattle, Anchorage, and Vancouver rank high because of the popularity of Alaska cruises this time of year. Florida beaches and cruise ports will also be packed.

European cities dominate the international list. The top 10 domestic and international destinations below are based on AAA booking data.

Orlando, FLRome, Italy
Seattle, WAVancouver, B.C., Canada
New York, NYLondon, England
Las Vegas, NVParis, France
Anaheim/Los Angeles, CADublin, Ireland
Denver, COAmsterdam, Netherlands
Anchorage, AKAthens, Greece
Fort Lauderdale, FLBarcelona, Spain
Miami, FLSt. George, Bermuda
Boston, MAEdinburgh, Scotland

Travel Trends 

As travelers make plans for summer and beyond, AAA Travel has identified the following trends:

  • Bucket Lists: Travelers taking once-in-a-lifetime trips
  • Milestones: Families booking anniversary, retirement, and family reunion trips
  • Asia: More travelers interested in visiting Asia, especially Japan
  • Solo Trips: More people, especially women, interested in traveling by themselves
  • Luxury Vacations: More travelers seeking high-end cruises and tours
  • Trains: Many travelers interested in rail vacations across New England, Canada, and Europe
  • Adventure in Nature: Travelers booking trips to Antarctica, Africa, and South Pacific

Holiday Forecast Methodology  

Travel Forecast 

In cooperation with AAA, S&P Global Market Intelligence (SPGMI) developed a unique methodology to forecast actual domestic travel volumes. The economic variables used to forecast travel for the current holiday are leveraged from SPGMI’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 gasoline prices, airline travel, and hotel stays. AAA and SPGMI have quantified holiday travel volumes going back to 2000. 

Historical travel volume estimates come from DK SHIFFLET’s TRAVEL PERFORMANCE/MonitorSM. The PERFORMANCE/MonitorSM is a comprehensive study measuring the travel behavior of U.S. residents. DK 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, and forecast U.S. travel behavior, all after the trips have been taken.

The travel forecast is reported in person-trips. In particular, AAA and SPGMI 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 15, 2024.

*Memorial Day Holiday Travel Period

For this forecast, the Memorial Day holiday travel period is defined as the five-day period from Thursday, May 23 to Monday, May 27, 2024.

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