AAA predicts rebound in travel for Memorial Day

Long lines form at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport Sunday, May 9, 2021.   STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Long lines form at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport Sunday, May 9, 2021. STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

AAA forecasts a rebound in travel for Memorial Day, with more than 1.1 million people in Georgia expected to take a trip during the holiday weekend.

That’s up about 62% from last year, though still more than 11% below levels seen in 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic. A similar rebound is forecast nationally.

The vast majority of Georgians who will hit the road during the May 27-31 holiday period are expected to travel by car. Nationally, more than 9 in 10 Memorial Day travelers will drive instead of flying or taking other modes of transportation.

Congestion on the roads is expected to be heaviest on the afternoons of Thursday, May 27, and Friday, May 28. It could take three times longer than normal to navigate the most congested stretches of highway.

Gas prices are trending more than $1 higher than last year, and the shutdown of the Colonial Pipeline after a cyberattack could lead to price hikes and limited supplies this month. Alpharetta-based Colonial says it is working toward “substantially restoring operational service by the end of the week.”

AAA advised motorists to keep an eye on their fuel level and to fill up when the tank is at half or a quarter full.

The number of people in Georgia taking planes will be more than six times higher than last year, AAA predicted. About 82,000 residents are expected to fly for the holiday, up from roughly 12,000 last year, but still down from 104,000 in 2019.

Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport is gearing up for bigger crowds. Travelers should be prepared for longer security lines and more crowded planes. Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines had blocked off middle seats on its planes during the pandemic, but began filling them this month.

Officials are advising travelers to get to the airport two hours early. Many who have ventured out for trips also have encountered pinch points at airport parking, rental cars and Uber pickups. Masks are still required in airports and on flights.

The top destinations for Memorial Day trips nationally are Orlando and Las Vegas. For road trips, popular destinations also include Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and Nashville, Tennessee.

“A year’s worth of pent-up demand is being unleashed this summer, as Americans anticipate the kick off to the season,” AAA vice president of travel Debbie Haas said in a written statement. “For many people, this will be their first summer vacation in two years, and things will look a little different.” She noted that many theme parks and hotels are still at reduced capacity with some services not available.

The number of people traveling by bus, train or other modes from Georgia is expected to still be down significantly to about 3,500 from more than 33,000 in 2019.

AAA’s projections are based on IHS Markit economic forecasting and research completed during the week of April 12. The number of COVID-19 cases and last-minute travel decisions could affect the auto club’s forecast.

Top Memorial Day destinations

Road Trips:

1. Las Vegas, Nev.

2. Orlando, Fla.

3. Myrtle Beach, S.C.

4. Denver, Colo.

5. Nashville, Tenn.

AAA Travel Bookings:

1. Orlando, Fla.

2. Las Vegas, Nev.

3. Honolulu, Hawaii

4. Anchorage, Alaska

5. Colorado Springs, Colo.

Source: AAA