AAA: Memorial Day Travel at Highest Level Since 2005

Last Updated on March 26, 2022 2:56 pm

AAA Carolinas projects an estimated 1,200,000 North Carolinians and 565,000 South Carolinians will travel 50 miles or more away from home this Memorial Day weekend, the highest Memorial Day travel volume since 2005 and an increase of 2.7% from last year.

“Carolinians are eagerly awaiting the start of summer and are ready to travel thanks to the positive growth seen throughout the travel industry this year,” said Dave Parsons, AAA Carolinas President and CEO, “We urge drivers to stay safe on the roadways this weekend and to always remember to put the phone away and disconnect and drive.”

The Memorial Day holiday travel period is defined as Thursday, May 25 to Monday, May 29.

By the Numbers: Memorial Day Travel Forecast

  • 1,573,200 Carolinians (1,076,200 North Carolinians and 497,000 South Carolinians) will drive to their destinations, an increase of 2.4 percent over last year.
  • 124,228 Carolinians (88,750 North Carolinians and 35,478 South Carolinians) are taking to the skies this Memorial Day, increasing air travel by 5.5 percent over last year.
  • 66,553 Carolinians (34,784 North Carolinians and 31,769 South Carolinians), an increase 2.9 percent from 2016, will look to other modes of transportation, including cruises, trains and buses.

While AAA expects most U.S. drivers will pay the highest Memorial Day gas prices since 2015, the vast majority of holiday travelers (88.1 percent) are still planning to hit the road. Automobile travel will grow by 2.4 percent this Memorial Day. The average price for a gallon of gas today in North Carolina is $2.20, 1 cent less than last year. South Carolina's average is $2.04, which is 1 cent less than last year.

More Americans are planning to rent cars for their holiday road trips this year. AAA's car rental bookings are 19 percent higher than last Memorial Day. According to Hertz, the busiest day for car rental pick-ups is expected to be Friday, May 26, based on last year's data.

While road trips continue to reign supreme for Memorial Day, more Americans will fly, ride the train or bus, or take a cruise vacation compared to last year. Air travel is expected to increase 5.5 percent over last year. Travel by other modes of transportation, including cruises, trains and buses, will increase 2.9 percent.

While the vast majority of travelers are planning a Memorial Day road trip, many other Carolinians will take advantage of the long holiday weekend and travel internationally.

The top destinations for Memorial Day weekend, based on AAA Carolinas travel bookings, are:

Top Domestic Destinations:

  1.  Alaska
  2. California
  3. Florida
  4. New York
  5. Arizona

Top International Destinations:

  1. Bahamas
  2. Italy
  3. Ireland
  4. Dominican Republic
  5. Canada

Top Driving Destinations in the Carolinas:

  1. Myrtle Beach
  2. Charlotte
  3. Raleigh
  4. Wilmington
  5. Greenville, SC

According to AAA's Leisure Travel Index, average airfares for the top 40 domestic flight routes will be 9 percent higher this Memorial Day, with an average round trip ticket landing at $181. Hotel costs have also increased since last Memorial Day, with the average AAA Three Diamond Rated hotel costing $215, or 18 percent more than last year. Daily car rental rates will average $66, which is 7 percent more than last year.

AAA Carolinas expects to rescue more than 11,000 motorists during the Memorial Day holiday travel period, with the primary reasons being dead batteries, lockouts and flat tires. AAA recommends motorists check the condition of their battery and tires before heading out on a road trip.

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, 20 North Carolina motorists and 8 South Carolina motorists died on the roads during the Memorial Day holiday.

For the latest on construction delays, go to the North Carolina Department of Transportation website, Click on Travel & Maps and then on the Traveler Information Management System for up-to-date traffic information related to closed travel lanes, accidents or expected congestion.

South Carolina will suspend construction projects along interstates and high volume multi-lane primary routes throughout the holiday weekend.

About the travel forecast:
AAA's projections are based on economic forecasting and research by IHS Markit. The London-based business information provider teamed with AAA in 2009 to jointly analyze travel trends during major holidays. AAA has been reporting on holiday travel trends for more than two decades. The complete AAA/IHS Markit 2017 Memorial Day holiday travel forecast is available here.

AAA Carolinas, an affiliate of the American Automobile Association, is a not-for-profit organization that serves more than 2 million members and the public with travel, automobile and insurance services while being an advocate for the safety and security of all travelers.

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