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Memorial Day Weekend Getaways: Cheaper For Flyers, Pricier For Drivers



With the three-day Memorial Day weekend just a week away, travelers can expect roads and airports to be more crowded than last year. But will your getaway cost more than it did last year? It depends on how you plan to get there.

What to expect if traveling by air

Domestic air tickets for Memorial Day weekend are averaging $260 per ticket, down 9.5% from last year and 2019 levels, according to Hopper’s Memorial Day 2024 Travel Outlook.

Hopper is predicting that airports will be busier over this Memorial Day, with more than a million more seats departing from U.S. airports over the long weekend. That’s unsurprising, as for many months now, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has been reporting air passenger volume that surpasses pre-pandemic 2019 levels.

Some of the problems that have plagued air travel in recent years have not yet been fully resolved, including a shortage of 3,000 air traffic controllers and delivery delays from Boeing.

To lower the risk of a flight disruption, Hopper advises booking the earliest flight in the day. “In general, flights departing after 9 am are twice as likely to be delayed than departures scheduled between 5 a.m. and 8 a.m.,” according to Hayley Berg, Hopper’s chief economist.

Passengers whose flights are disrupted can consult the Department of Transportation’s Aviation Consumer Protection website, which shows side-by-side comparisons of what each airline offers in the event of a controllable delay or cancellation.

What to expect if traveling by car

Driving a gasoline-powered car will cost more this year. The average price of regular gas is currently $3.60 per gallon, according to the American Automobile Association (AAA). That’s up 13% from last year, when a gallon of regular cost $3.53 at the pump.

But there’s a workaround if you’re location flexible. Gas prices can vary wildly from state to state, and even within areas of the same state. Consider that a gallon of regular costs just $3.07 in Mississippi, which is 70% less than the $5.24 per gallon average in California, per AAA data. That means a weekend road trip through the Deep South or Midwest can cost significantly less than a drive up the Pacific Highway.

Car rentals are averaging $43 per day, in line with last year, according to Hopper. Americans are renting cars for longer than last year, with most rentals averaging five days compared to four days in 2023.

The American Automobile Association (AAA) is expecting 38.4 million Americans to drive 50 miles or more from home for the long weekend — 1.5 million more than in 2023. That’s a 4% increase in travel volume for the holiday weekend compared to last year, according to the organization’s annual travel forecast released Monday.

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

What to expect at your destination

Travelers will see slightly higher on-the-ground costs this year when they arrive at their destination. Hotel stays over the holiday weekend are averaging $212 per night this year, slightly higher than average prices for summer, says Hopper.

Eating out on vacation will also cost a bit more than last year. The Consumer Price Index for Food Away from Home increased 4.1% between April 2023 and April 2024, the slowest year-over-year rate of growth for menu prices since May 2021, according to the latest report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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