AAA forecasts record travel over Memorial Day period

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Congested roads and skies expected for the unofficial start to the summer travel season

AAA forecasts record numbers of travelers over the Memorial Day holiday period, and advises vacationers to prepare for crowds and congestion on highways, in airports and on planes.

The auto club expects 1.32 million people in Georgia to travel at least 50 miles during the holiday period running from Thursday, May 25 through Monday, May 29.

That’s about 86,000 more travelers than last year and slightly more than the 1.3 million Georgia residents who took trips over the same period of 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic. The forecast echoes what airline and other travel industry experts have predicted for what is expected to be a booming summer travel season.

“Some of the concerns that we saw around the pandemic are now erased,” said AAA spokesman Garrett Townsend. And, “the economy is to a point where people are starting to feel comfortable in traveling again. That all tells us that this is going to be a very busy summer for traveling.”

The forecast includes more road-trippers than last year and a record number of air travelers.

“Airports are packed,” said Claire Murdock, a travel specialist for AAA. “TSA is busy. Airplanes are packed and full.” AAA expects this Memorial Day weekend could be the busiest at airports since 2005.

Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport’s current forecast shows it could handle 2.1 million passengers from Thursday May 25 through Wednesday May 31. That passenger count includes travelers from Georgia, as well as those flying to Atlanta and connecting to other destinations. Last year’s Memorial Day brought roughly 2 million travelers through the world’s busiest airport.

Air travel demand is skyrocketing even as fliers face high fares for Memorial Day flights. AAA said its booking data shows a 40% increase in air fares to certain top destinations, which include Orlando, New York City and Las Vegas.

A survey by The Vacationer showed that nearly two-thirds of respondents said inflation would affect their’ Memorial Day weekend plans.

And high prices hitting consumers in the pocketbook aren’t the only hassle.

This year, airlines and the aviation industry have continued to struggle with flight disruptions and staffing issues.

That’s causing growing concerns about the looming busy summer travel season, that could bring more frustrations for travelers stuck in long lines and stranded by cancellations and delays.

Murdock said her luggage has been mishandled three times over her last four trips, and advises travelers to limit their baggage to carry-ons if possible. Otherwise, “definitely make sure to pack some clothes and extra medicine that you need” in a carry-on bag, she said.

Amid heavy demand, travelers should also book trips early and get tickets for attractions and other activities in advance when possible, according to Murdock.

Those planning to travel internationally should ensure they have valid passports, or otherwise apply for a passport well in advance of a trip. The U.S. State Department lists recent passport processing times of 10 to 13 weeks for routine applications, and 7 to 9 weeks for expedited applications.



While many flights are packed, the majority of people going on Memorial Day trips of at least 50 miles will drive. About 1.18 million people in Georgia are forecast to take road trips during the Memorial Day holiday period, up from 1.11 million last year and 1.17 million in the same period of 2019.

The rebound of travel from Georgia is stronger than national travel trends, according to AAA’s figures.

Across the country, AAA expects 42.3 million people will take trips of at least 50 miles over the Memorial Day period.

That’s up 7% from last year — but still shy of the 42.8 million seen in 2019 and record 44 million in 2005.

On the roads, AAA expects the worst congestion to come Thursday evening and Friday before Memorial Day, as vacationers set off on trips. Monday and Tuesday when people return home will also be crowded, he said.

Gas prices are expected to remain relatively stable, Townsend said. The average price for a gallon of unleaded in metro Atlanta was $3.26, according to AAA’s figures Monday.

AAA Memorial Day travel forecast for Georgia


1,319,232 travelers, including:

1,179,575 by auto

114,200 by air

25,457 by other mode, including bus and train


1,233,080 travelers, including:

1,109,508 by auto

102,264 by air

21,309 by other mode, including bus and train


1,306,564 travelers, including:

1,168,917 by auto

104,187 by air

33,460 by other mode, including bus and train

Source: AAA

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Credit: Miguel Martinez