Nearly 785,000 Coloradans will travel this Memorial Day weekend, per the latest forecast from AAA Colorado. They’ll join the ranks of nearly 43 million Americans vacationing over the long holiday weekend – the second-highest overall travel volume on record and the most Memorial Day automobile travel ever recorded by AAA. All told, 1.5 million more Americans will take to the nation’s roads, rails, and runways compared to 2018, a 3.6 percent increase marked by rising consumer confidence.
While gas prices continue to trend upward across the country, 88 percent of holiday travelers are committed to road-tripping during Memorial Day. Nearly 690,000 Coloradans will travel by car for the holiday, a 3.75 percent increase despite gas averaging a dime more than it did this time last year.
“Slightly more expensive gas just isn’t going to keep anybody home this Memorial Day weekend,” said AAA Colorado spokesman Skyler McKinley. “Increasingly optimistic about their economic futures, Coloradans have prioritized saving for and spending money on travel, and near-record numbers will do just that for Memorial Day.”
By the Numbers
Automobiles: The vast majority of travelers – 37.6 million – will hit the road, the most on record for Memorial Day and 3.5 percent more than last year. In Colorado, nearly 690,000 Coloradans will travel by car.
Three and a quarter million Americans will take to the skies, 4.8 percent more than last year. That includes nearly 70,000 Coloradans.
Trains, Buses, and Cruise Ships:
Travel across these sectors will increase by 3.8 percent to 1.9 million passengers nationwide, including nearly 30,000 who call Colorado home.
Worst Times to Hit the Road
If you’re among those traveling by car, be strategic: AAA, in collaboration with INRX, predicts that drivers will experience the greatest amount of congestion on Thursday, May 23 and Friday, May 24 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, while New Yorkers and Washington, D.C., could see three times the delay.
Higher Gas Prices? No Problem....
Nationwide, gas prices have increased by more than 30 cents in the last two months, and the national average is approaching $3 per gallon – on par with prices at this time last year. In Colorado, motorists can expect to pay between $2.95 and $3.25 throughout the Memorial Day holiday period. Prices are currently highest in Vail ($3.21) and lowest in in Denver ($2.79), and drivers should expect those prices to rise over Memorial Day by dint of increased demand.
“Per our research, more expensive gas prices may jolt travelers into shortening the distance of their road trip, eating out less, or looking for free activities,” McKinley said. “But gas prices won’t generally stop someone in their tracks if they had already planned on traveling, as many Coloradans have.”
The Economic Drivers of Travel
While economic growth has begun to cool over previous years, real GDP should increase 2.4 percent compared to year ago, and the national unemployment rate is expected to fall to 3.6 percent, the lowest level in 50 years.
Solid job and income growth, along with an elevated consumer mood, remain fundamental drivers for U.S. consumer spending.
Consumer optimism hasn’t fully recovered from declines seen in late 2018, but near-term expectations remain in line with the levels seen at this time last year.
Lower Hotel and Car Rental Costs
While road trippers will pay more to fill up their vehicles at the gas pump, they’ll make up that expense with lower prices on car rentals and hotels this Memorial Day. Per AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, car rental prices have declined 7 percent from last year, with an average daily rate of $55. Mid-range hotels are between 2 and 3 percent cheaper this year, with an average nightly rate of $146 and $183, respectively, for AAA Two and Three Diamond Rated properties. Airfares are holding steady compared to last Memorial Day, for an average roundtrip price of $171.
DIA a Top Destination for Car Rentals
Per research from Hertz, a AAA partner for more than 40 years, Denver International Airport (DEN) will be among the busiest pick-up locations for travelers renting a car this Memorial Day – joining Orlando (MCO), Los Angeles (LAX), Las Vegas (LAS), and San Francisco (SFO). The busiest day for rental pick-ups will be Friday, May 24, with an average rental length of nearly five days, as travelers look to take advantage of the long holiday weekend.
AAA to rescue more than 353,000 motorists
Nationwide, AAA expects to be called on to rescue more than 353,000 motorists at the roadside this Memorial Day weekend. Dead batteries, flat tires, and lockouts are the leading reasons AAA members will experience car trouble.
AAA recommends motorist take their vehicles to a trusted repair facility to perform any needed maintenance before heading out on a road trip. 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.
AAA’s projections are based on economic forecasting and research by IHS Markit, a London-based business information provider. For the purposes of this forecast, the Memorial Day holiday travel period is defined as the five-day period from Thursday, May 23 to Monday, May 27. In cooperation with AAA, IHS Markit developed a unique methodology to forecast actual domestic travel volumes, using macroeconomic drivers such as employment; output; household net worth; asset prices including stock indices; interest rates; housing market indicators and variables related to travel and tourism, including prices of gasoline, airline travel and hotel stays. The complete AAA/IHS Markit 2019 Memorial Day holiday travel forecast is available here.
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About AAA Colorado
More than 685,000 members strong, AAA Colorado is the state’s most-trusted advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 59 million members with travel, insurance, financial, and automotive-related services - as well as member-exclusive savings. For more information, visit www.AAA.com.