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Record travel expected this Memorial Day weekend

(The Hill) — A record number of Americans are expected to travel by car this Memorial Day weekend, and airports could be busier than they’ve been since 2005, according to a forecast released Monday by AAA.

The auto club anticipates 43.8 million people will travel 50 miles or more from home over the holiday weekend, surpassing pre-pandemic levels. That’s a 4 percent increase from the same period last year and within striking distance of the 2005 record of 44 million Memorial Day weekend travelers.

“We haven’t seen Memorial Day weekend travel numbers like these in almost 20 years,” said Paula Twidale, AAA Travel’s senior vice president. “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.”

Road travelers are expected to hit a record 38.4 million, the highest number since AAA started tracking in 2000. While gas prices are similar to last year at roughly $3.57 per gallon, AAA warned “prices may creep higher,” with fluctuating oil prices being a “wildcard” and wars in the Middle East and Ukraine potentially putting pressure on oil markets.

Another 3.5 million are expected to fly, making it the most crowded Memorial Day weekend in nearly two decades. In 2005, a record 3.6 million travelers flew during Memorial Day weekend as the travel industry rebounded from the Sept. 11 terrorist attack.

Demand for other methods of transportation including buses, trains and cruises is also recovering from the toll of the pandemic. An estimated 1.9 million people are expected to take one of these other modes of transportation, up 5.6 percent from a year ago.

“This category took the biggest hit during the pandemic with fewer people taking public transportation or not cruising at all,” Twidale said. “Now – five years later – we’re back to 2019 numbers. Travel demand has been soaring, and long holiday weekends create the perfect windows for getaways.”

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