AAA: Despite High Gas Prices, Carolinians Plan To Travel In Record Numbers For Memorial Day Weekend

Last Updated on May 16, 2018 6:59 pm

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (May 16, 2018) – AAA Carolinas projects an estimated 1,260,000 North Carolinians and 593,250 South Carolinians will travel this Memorial Day weekend, the highest Memorial Day travel volume since 2005 and an increase of 5% from last year.

“Although Carolinians will be filling up at the pumps with the highest gas prices since 2014, that won’t keep them at home,” said Tiffany Wright, AAA Carolinas spokesperson. “A strong economy and growing consumer confidence are giving Carolinians the motivation they need to kick off what we expect to be a busy summer travel season with a Memorial Day getaway.”

The Memorial Day holiday travel period is defined as Thursday, May 24 to Monday, May 28.

By the Numbers:

  • 1,647,140 Carolinians (1,126,781 North Carolinians and 520,359 South Carolinians) will drive to their destinations, an increase of 4.7 percent over last year.
  • 132,640 Carolinians (94,785 North Carolinians and 37,855 South Carolinians) are taking to the skies this Memorial Day, increasing air travel by 6.8 percent over last year.
  • 68,149 Carolinians (35,618 North Carolinians and 32,531 South Carolinians), an increase 2.4 percent from 2017, will look to other modes of transportation, including cruises, trains and buses.

Drivers Beware: Worst Times to Hit the Road
INRIX, in collaboration with AAA, predicts drivers will experience the greatest amount of congestion on Thursday, May 24 and Friday, May 25 – in the late afternoon as commuters leave work early and mix with holiday travelers. Several major U.S. metros could experience double the travel times compared to a normal trip.

Higher gas prices not deterring travelers
The 88 percent of travelers choosing to drive will pay the most expensive Memorial Day gas prices since 2014. Gas prices average $2.73 in North Carolina – a 52-cent increase from the $2.21 Memorial Day price in 2017. South Carolina will experience an even larger jump with its current average of $2.61 being 56-cents higher than last year’s Memorial Day price, due to expensive crude oil, record gasoline demand and shrinking global supply. However, these higher prices are not keeping holiday travelers home, with automobile travel expected to increase for the fourth straight year.

Travel numbers are not expected to change for Memorial Day weekend, though gas prices likely will. For the most up-to-date gas prices throughout the Carolinas, visit  

Increased Danger on the Roads
Memorial Day weekend marks the beginning of the “100 Deadliest Days,” the period when teen traffic deaths historically rise, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. Last year, there were 1,768 collisions resulting in 918 injuries and 10 fatalities in North Carolina and 1,008 collisions resulting in 501 injuries and 12 fatalities in South Carolina.

“We urge everyone to practice safe behaviors behind the wheel. Eliminate distractions, don’t drink and drive and don’t speed,” added Wright.

Lower hotel, airline and car rental costs make up for higher gas prices
While road trippers will pay higher prices at the gas pump this year, travelers can expect some relief in their wallets when paying for airfare, car rentals and most mid-range hotels. According to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, airfares are 7 percent lower than last Memorial Day, landing at an average price of $168 for a round-trip flight along the top 40 domestic routes. At $59, the average daily cost of a car rental this Memorial Day is the lowest rate in the past four years and 11 percent cheaper than last year.

Top Memorial Day travel destinations for Carolinians:

By vehicle:

  1. Myrtle Beach, SC
  2. Washington, DC
  3. Orlando, FL
  4. Asheville, NC
  5. St. Augustine, FL

By air:

  1. Alaska
  2. Italy
  3. Dominican Republic
  4. Bahamas
  5. Jamaica

Before hitting the road, make sure your vehicle is road-trip ready. Make a good B-E-T to stay on the road this summer by having your Battery tested, looking for Engine coolant leaks and checking Tire condition. Be prepared for emergencies with a mobile phone and car charger, a flashlight with extra batteries, a first-aid kit, a basic toolkit, and drinking water and snacks for all passengers.

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