With gas prices the lowest they’ve been in the past few years, AAA estimates that 37.2 million people nationwide will travel during the upcoming Memorial Day weekend — the most in the past decade.
That figure represents people who will travel 50 miles or more for the holiday weekend (defined as Thursday, May 21 to Monday, May 25) and is 4.7 percent higher than the 35.5 million people who traveled during the weekend last year.
This year’s forecast marks the highest year-over-year growth rate of any holiday since the Fourth of July weekend in 2012. The more than 37 million people expected to travel also is 5.5 percent higher than the average seen over the past 10 years, and marks a 22 percent jump over the post-recession low seen in 2009, according to AAA’s report.
The vast majority of travelers nationwide — 33 million — will be hitting the road to get to their destinations by automobile, up more than 5 percent from last year, according to AAA data.
“Following a harsh winter, many Americans are trading in their snow boots for flip flops and making plans to start the season with a vacation getaway,” AAA President Marshall Doney said in a statement. “AAA is expecting more Memorial Day travelers this year than any time in the past 10 years as confident consumers come out of hibernation ready to explore national parks, beach destinations, and America’s great cities.”
Tourist destinations are bracing for a busy weekend, he said.
“A strong employment market and low gas prices have driven consumer optimism to new highs and boosted Americans’ disposable income,” Doney said. “This is welcome news for the travel industry.”
For the most part, those who drive will enjoy gas prices that are about $1 per gallon lower than they were last year during the holiday weekend. AAA predicts those traveling by car will pay the cheapest Memorial Day weekend gas prices in five years.
Nationwide, a gallon of regular gas cost an average of $2.70 Monday, down from $3.65 a year ago, according to AAA, which tracks daily gas price averages across the country.
Prices at the pump have climbed in recent days, however, and Connecticut remains the 10th most expensive state to fill up a tank, AAA figures show.
A gallon of regular gas in Connecticut cost an average of $2.83 Monday, still well below the $3.93 average from a year ago. The highest gas prices in the nation were in California and Hawaii at $3.72 and $3.23, respectively.
Those who travel by air — 2.6 million people, up 2.5 percent from last year — will pay lower airfares, according to AAA. At $222, the average fares for the top 40 domestic flight routes are 2 percent cheaper than they were last year.
Hotel room rates, however, are higher than they were a year ago, according to AAA. A nightly stay in a AAA Two Diamond-rated hotel will be $144 this year, up 16 percent from last year while Three Diamond-rated hotels will average $182 a night, up 7 percent.
Travel on cruises, trains, and buses is expected to dip 3.6 percent this year, according to AAA, to 1.6 million.
AAA typically provides travel forecasts ahead of major holidays. The projections are based on economic forecasting and research by Colorado-based IHS Global Insight. The firm has been analyzing holiday travel trends for AAA since 2009.