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Memorial Day weekend 2024 could be busiest for travel in nearly 20 years

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This year is expected to be one of the busiest travel years in nearly two decades, with about 43.8 million people expected to travel at least 50 miles, according to AAA.

Joy Noelle Balanag booked her vacation months ago, hoping to beat the potentially record-breaking summer rush.

“I definitely am excited for this travel season. 2024 feels just like almost a breath of fresh air,” she told CBS News. “I do plan on traveling on airplanes. I do plan on taking my car. Just, like, seeing where this summer season takes me.”

Balanag won’t be alone. This Memorial Day weekend, AAA is expecting a nearly 5% bump in airline travel over last year and United Airlines alone is planning to fly more than half a million people a day from May 23 through May 28, which would be the airline’s busiest Memorial Day weekend ever. Delta is expecting 3 million passengers total over that same stretch, a 5% increase for the airline from 2023. American Airlines said it’s preparing for 3.9 million customers over the long Memorial Day weekend.

Most travelers will drive that weekend, however, with AAA predicting a record 38.4 million people will hit the road. That’s a 4% increase from last year. Gas prices are similar to where they were last year, up about 8 cents a gallon nationally compared to last Memorial Day weekend.

“It goes back to that bucket list, YOLO, you only live once mentality, Aixa Diaz of AAA told CBS News. “A lot of people are now going, ‘You know what? Let’s not take those trips we always take with our families. Let’s get a little bit more adventurous.'”

One of the fastest-growing travel options since the COVID-19 pandemic is cruising.

The industry is expecting a new record high of nearly 35 million passengers this year, according to the Cruise Lines International Association. For the thousands on board the Carnival Firezne cruise ship’s inaugural sold-out sailing, which began in late April, vacation season started early.

Passenger Jeanine Stage of Arizona told CBS News what she likes best about cruising is, “That you get to go to multiple destinations and you unpack your suitcase once.”

“You got food, entertainment, even the casino, if you’re into that, there’s shows,” she said.

All told, AAA is predicting 2024 will finish just narrowly behind 2005 as the busiest Memorial Day travel weekend since it began keeping track in 2000.

AAA expects the busiest time on the roads will be from noon to 7 p.m. on the Thursday and Friday before Memorial Day. United Airlines said that Thursday will be its busiest of the holiday weekend.

Among the top destinations this year: Florida, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Denver.

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