AAA: Gas prices drive Memorial Day road travel

It’s going to be another great travel summer! At least that’s what travel experts predict based on AAA’s travel projections for the upcoming Memorial Day holiday, the “unofficial” start of summer.

Lower gas prices, a growing labor market and rising personal income are all driving holiday travel for 38 million Americans, who expect to hit the road and fly the skies this holiday. About 700,000 more people are traveling this year compared to 2015, according to AAA’s annual holiday survey. The holiday period is defined as Thursday, May 26-Monday, May 30.

This year’s projections mark the second highest Memorial Day travel on record. The highest was in 2005 when 44 million folks traveled.

Of the overall 38 million folks:

  • 89% (34 million) will satisfy their wanderlust this year with a road trip. The figure is 2.1% higher than last year’s holiday;

  • 7% (2.6 million), a 1.6% increase, will travel by air over the holiday weekend, and

  • 4% (1.6 million), a 2.3% drop, will use some other mode of transportation, including cruises, trains and buses. 

AAA also estimates 1.72 million New England residents plan to travel over Memorial Day of which 1.57 million will go by car. Both numbers mirror national trends as the highest seen locally since 2005.

As of today (May 19), the national average price for a gallon of gas is $2.26, $.45 cents less than this time last year. AAA expects most US drivers will pay the lowest Memorial Day gas prices since 2004.

On the state level, Connecticut’s average gas price for a gallon of self-serve, regular today (May 19) is $2.39, $.45 cents lower than this time last year.

And based on AAA travel agency sales nationally, Orlando, Myrtle Beach, Washington DC and New York are the four top destinations for travelers this Memorial Day weekend.

However, for those in Connecticut, who are embarking on day or short trips,  Mystic, the Casinos and Connecticut’s theme parks: Quassy and Compounce; along with the nearby Six Flags New England continue to be popular weekend trips.

Air Fares, Car Rental Costs Down; Hotel Costs Flat

According to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, average airfares for the top 40 domestic flight routes will be 26% cheaper this year with an average roundtrip ticket costing $165. Hotel costs are in line with last Memorial Day with AAA Three-Diamond properties averaging $183 a night; and AAA Two-Diamond rated hotels averaging $151 a night. Daily car rental rates are averaging $62, 3% less than last year.

AAA’s projections are based on economic forecasting and research by IHS Global Insight, a Colorado-based business information provider. AAA has been reporting on holiday travel trends for more than two decades. The complete AAA/IHS Global Insight 2016 Memorial Day holiday travel forecast can be found here.

AAA Northeast is a not-for-profit auto club with 62 offices in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey and New York providing more than 6 million local AAA members with travel, insurance, finance, and auto-related services.