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Memorial Day road trip ahead. Here are the best and worst times to go in Florida, the Southeast




Memorial Day is rapidly approaching, which means millions will be hitting the roadways or skies for a quick weekend getaway.

AAA projects 43.8 million travelers will head 50 miles or more from home over the Memorial Day holiday travel period. This is a 4% increase over last year, with experts noting this comes close to matching 2005’s record of 44 million Memorial Day travelers. 

“We haven’t seen Memorial Day weekend travel numbers like these in almost 20 years,” Paula Twidale, Senior Vice President of AAA Travel, said. “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.”  

When is Memorial Day 2024? When is Memorial Day weekend 2024?

Memorial Day is always observed on the last Monday of May, with this year’s being on Monday, May 27. Memorial Day weekend starts on Friday, May 24, and lasts through the holiday until Monday.

Why we celebrate: What to know about federal holiday, what’s open in Florida

Which will be more congested for Memorial Day travel — roadways or airports?

According to AAA, road trips are expected to set a record with 38.4 million people projected to travel by car over Memorial Day weekend. Drivers can expect similar gas prices as last year when the national average was roughly $3.57.

Renting a car for your road trip? Florida-based rental company Hertz says Orlando, Denver, Atlanta, Boston and Las Vegas are the cities displaying the highest rental demand, with the busiest pick-up days projected to be Thursday, May 23 and Friday, May 24. 

But airports are also bracing for a large surge of travelers next weekend.

Is Memorial Day a busy airport day?

AAA expects 3.51 million air travelers this holiday weekend, an increase of 4.8% over last year and 9% jump compared to 2019.

“This will be the most crowded Memorial Day weekend at airports since 2005, when 3.64 million flew for the holiday as the travel industry finally rebounded post 9/11,” AAA said in its press release.

As for other modes of transportation, AAA predicts nearly two million people are expected to travel by buses, cruises, and train.

“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.” 

When are the best and worst times to travel on Memorial Day?

For those planning a road trip for the holiday weekend, transportation data and insights provider INRIX offers the best times to get on the road.

Experts advise drivers leaving Thursday or Friday should hit the road early to avoid mixing with commuters. Travelers going back home on Sunday or Monday should avoid the afternoon hours when return trips will peak.  

“Travel times are expected to be up to 90% longer than normal. Travelers should stay up to date on traffic apps, 511 services, and local news stations to avoid sitting in traffic longer than necessary,” Bob Pishue, transportation analyst at INRIX, said.

What are the busiest travel days around Memorial Day?

Thursday, May 23

  • Best times: Before 11 a.m., After 7 p.m.
  • Worst Times: 12 p.m. – 6 p.m.

Friday, May 24

  • Best times: Before 11 a.m., After 8 p.m.
  • Worst Times: 12 p.m. – 7 p.m.

Saturday, May 25

  • Best times: Before 11 a.m., After 6 p.m.
  • Worst Times: 12 p.m. – 5 p.m.

Sunday, May 26

  • Best times: Before 1 p.m.
  • Worst Times: 3 p.m. – 7 p.m.

Monday, May 27

  • Best times: After 7 p.m.
  • Worst Times: 3 p.m. – 7 p.m.

Floridians beware: Other states are heading to Florida to vacation

Whether Florida residents plan on traveling or relaxing at home all weekend, they might want to be aware of the thousands of others joining them.

AAA compiled a list of the top domestic travel destinations for Memorial Day weekend, with three Florida cities making the list:

  1. Orlando, Florida
  2. Seattle, Washington
  3. New York City, New York
  4. Las Vegas, Nevada
  5. Anaheim/Los Angeles, California
  6. Denver, Colorado
  7. Anchorage, Alaska
  8. Fort Lauderdale, Florida
  9. Miami, Florida
  10. Boston, Massachusetts

“This Memorial Day weekend, travelers are seeking theme parks and entertainment venues in Orlando, New York, Las Vegas, and Southern California. Seattle, Anchorage, and Vancouver rank high because of the popularity of Alaska cruises this time of year. Florida beaches and cruise ports will also be packed,” AAA writes.

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