2024 Memorial Day Weekend Travel Expected to Approach Record

Memorial Day weekend may be the busiest in almost 20 years.

This year, AAA projects that 43.8 million people in the U.S. will travel at least 50 miles from home Thursday, May 23, to Monday, May 27. That’s a 4% increase over the same 5-day period around Memorial Day last year, and just shy of the record 44 million record set in 2005.

Paula Twidale, Senior Vice President of AAA Travel said in a statement, “We’re projecting an additional one million travelers this holiday weekend compared to 2019, which not only means we’re exceeding pre-pandemic levels but also signals a very busy summer travel season ahead.”

Here’s what to expect if you are traveling by air or car on the first holiday weekend of the summer, and how to avoid the crowds.

Air travel will be busy …

The number of travelers traveling by air Memorial Day weekend is expected to be the highest since 2005. AAA predicts 3.51 million people will fly over the 5-day period, a nearly 5% increase from last year and 9% more than in 2019.

Most flyers should have been able to snag slightly less expensive Memorial Day flights compared to 2023 travelers. Flight prices in 2024 have been down at least 5% year-over-year each month from January to April, according to Consumer Price Index data.

If you haven’t booked your flights yet (or your plans are flexible), consider extending your trip to avoid the crowds. The least busy days to fly around Memorial Day are the Tuesday or Saturday before the holiday or the Wednesday after, according to a NerdWallet analysis of Transportation Security Administration (TSA) throughput data.

Holding a TSA PreCheck, Global Entry or Clear membership is one way to avoid the crowds and skip long lines at airport security checkpoints during Memorial Day weekend, but even those lines might be slightly slower than usual. TSA PreCheck membership has ballooned to 19 million people, up from 15 million people this time last year.

But the car traffic will be worse

The spike in air travel is nothing compared to the congestion road trippers can expect Memorial Day weekend. AAA estimates nearly 38 million people will travel by car over the holiday weekend, more than 10 times the number of air travelers.

Gas prices are expected to remain around last year’s national average of $3.57 per gallon for Memorial Day weekend, but could increase over the summer. Since the start of 2024, gas prices have been inching up.

To avoid the worst congestion, INRIX, a provider of transportation data and insights, recommends avoiding afternoon and evening traffic, especially on the Thursday and Friday before Memorial Day to avoid mixing with commuter traffic. The best time to return home on Memorial Day is after 7 p.m.

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