WASHINGTON, D. C. (Tuesday, May 23, 2017) –– One million Washington metro area residents will take a trip of 50 miles or more to kick off the summer travel season during the Memorial Day holiday weekend, AAA Mid-Atlantic is projecting. It’s the highest number of area residents planning to travel for the holiday in twelve years. Overall, the 998,800 Washingtonians taking to the roads and rails, and the skies and seas during the holiday comprise 16 percent of the Washington metro area’s population of 6,097,684.
Historically, “nine out of 10 summer trips (about 91 percent) are in personal vehicles,” and Memorial Day sets the tone for this summertime trend-line. As proof, of those traveling from the Washington metro area for the upcoming holiday, nearly nine out of ten, or 89.3 percent, are planning to travel by vehicle, which is the highest number of road travelers for Memorial Day since 2005, notes AAA Travel.
Holiday air travel is expected to increase 6.2 percent at the region’s big three airports, AAA Mid-Atlantic is forecasting, increasing to 78,200 local residents compared to 73,700 local folks in 2016. The remaining share of local holiday travelers, 2.9 percent or 29,100, will travel by other modes of transportation, including rail, bus and watercraft. These modes are forecast to increase nominally by 0.4 percent.
Nationwide, 39.3 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more away from home this Memorial Day weekend AAA is also projecting. Nationally, it is one million more travelers than last year taking to the roads, skies, rails and water, creating the highest Memorial Day travel volume since 2005.
“They are a million-strong, and of that tally, 891,500 people in the Washington metro are planning to drive to their Memorial Day destinations,” said John B. Townsend II, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Manager of Public and Government Affairs. “Sixteen percent of area residents will travel during this five-day holiday travel period. It is the highest number of holiday travelers hailing from the Washington metro area in a dozen years.”
AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Memorial Day 2017
Travel Projections for the Washington SMSA At-A-Glance
Total Travel & Percentage
Automobile Travel & Percentage
Air Travel & Percentage
Other Modes of
Travel & Percentage
Up 3.0% from 970,100 travelers in 2016.
891,500 (89.3% of all area travelers). Up 2.8% from 867,500 in 2016.
78,200 (7.8% of all area travelers). Up 6.2% from 73,700 in 2016.
29,100 (2.9% of all area travelers). Up 0.4% from 29,000 in 2016.
Traditionally, the summer travel season begins the Thursday before Memorial Day and ends the Wednesday after Labor Day. This year’s increase in Memorial Day travel is being fueled by higher personal incomes, a falling unemployment rate and recent increases in consumer sentiment have all helped to boost the economy of recent, notes AAA Travel. This has led to strong growth in consumer spending, and a greater willingness to travel.
By the Numbers: National Memorial Day Travel Forecast
- 2017 will mark the third consecutive year of growth in Memorial Day travel with 2.7 percent more travelers than last year.
- 34.6 million Americans (88.1 percent of travelers) will drive to their destinations, an increase of 2.4 percent over last year.
- 2.9 million Americans are taking to the skies this Memorial Day, increasing air travel by 5.5 percent over last year.
- 1.75 million travelers, an increase 2.9 percent from 2016, will look to other modes of transportation, including cruises, trains and buses.
- Drivers will pay the highest Memorial Day gas prices since 2015. Airfares, car rental rates and mid-range hotels are all trending higher than last Memorial Day.
“The expected spike in Memorial Day travel mirrors the positive growth seen throughout the travel industry this year,” said Tom Calcagni, Regional Director of Public and Government Affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “Higher confidence has led to more consumer spending, and many Americans are choosing to allocate their extra money on travel this Memorial Day.” The Memorial Day holiday travel period is defined as Thursday, May 25 to Monday, May 29.
Travelers still hitting the road despite higher gas prices
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, with 34.6 million Americans planning a holiday road trip. The national average price for a gallon of gas Monday was $2.36, 8 cents more than last year.
In Washington D.C., Monday’s average price was $2.53, which was 11 cents more per gallon than last year. In the Washington metro area, Monday’s average price was $2.33, which was 7 cents more per gallon than 2016.
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.
Large increases in flying and travel by other modes this Memorial Day
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, with 2.9 million Americans taking to the skies this Memorial Day. Travel by other modes of transportation, including cruises, trains and buses, will increase 2.9 percent, to 1.75 million travelers.
Airfares, hotel and car rental rates on the rise
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. “The average lowest round-trip is $254 from Washington, D.C. to Las Vegas, which is 6.4 percent more than the $239 average in 2016,” Townsend explained. “The average lowest round-trip from New York to Washington, D.C. is $145 in comparison to $269 in 2015, which is a decrease of 45.9 percent.”
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. “Memorial Day holiday hotel rates for AAA Three Diamond lodgings in Washington, D.C. are expected to average $359 per night, which is a 92.2 percent increase over last year, according to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index,” said Townsend. “Travelers planning to stay at AAA Two Diamond hotels can expect to pay an average cost of $171 per night, compared to $158 in 2016, an increase of 8.1 percent.”
Nationally, daily car rental rates will average $66, which is 7 percent more than last year. Travelers in Washington, D.C. will encounter lower average daily car rental costs this year. Daily car rental rates will average $66, compared to $81 last year, which is a decrease of 18.1 percent from 2016.
AAA Mid-Atlantic to rescue more than 34,000 motorists this Memorial Day
AAA Mid-Atlantic expects its roadway rescuers across the region to respond to the SOS calls of more than 34,000 motorists this Memorial Day weekend, with the primary reasons being lockouts, flat tires and battery-related issues. During the Memorial Day travel period in 2016, AAA rescued nearly 1,200 drivers in Washington, D.C., nearly 9,000 in Maryland and nearly 6,600 in Virginia. AAA recommends motorists have their vehicles inspected by a trusted repair shop, such as a AAA Car Care Center in the mid-Atlantic region or one of the more than 7,000 AAA Approved Auto Repair facilities across North America. Members can download the AAA Mobile app, visit AAA.com or call 1-800-AAA-HELP to request roadside assistance.
Many Memorial Day vacationers traveling abroad this year
While the vast majority of travelers are planning a Memorial Day road trip, many other Americans will take advantage of the long holiday weekend and travel internationally, with Europe especially popular this year. The top destinations for Memorial Day weekend, based on AAA travel bookings, are:
- Orlando, Florida
- Rome, Italy
- London, England
- Dublin, Ireland
- Vancouver, Canada
- Seattle, Washington
- Las Vegas, Nevada
- New York, New York
- Paris, France
- Honolulu, Hawaii
According to Hertz, the busiest airport pick-up locations for travelers planning to rent a car this Memorial Day are expected to be Los Angeles (LAX), San Francisco (SFO), Orlando (MCO), Atlanta (ATL) and Denver (DEN), based on data from 2016.
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.
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