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Record 2.5 million Floridians will travel for Memorial Day weekend, AAA predicts

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A record-setting 2.5 million Floridians plan to hit the road or airport for the long holiday weekend, according to a travel forecast from AAA.

That’s 126,500 more holiday travelers than the previous record set last year. The club projects 2.3 million Florida travelers will journey 50 miles or more in a car, while more than 224,000 will take an air-based voyage.

Nationally, AAA anticipates the second highest traveled Memorial Day weekend on record with nearly 43.8 million Americans venturing more than 50 miles, just shy of 2005’s high of 44 million.

“Memorial Day will be the start to a very busy summer of travel,” said Debbie Haas, vice president of travel for AAA, in a news release. “American travelers are forecast to surpass pre-pandemic levels, making this the busiest Memorial Day holiday weekend in nearly two decades.”

Even as gas prices have inched upward, averaging $3.55 per gallon in Florida on May 23 compared with $3.41 at this time last year, road trips are expected to set a record in the Sunshine State and nationwide with nearly 38.4 million Americans on the road, 1.5 million more than last year. In addition, this will be the most crowded Memorial Day weekend at airports since 2005.

During a rush of spring break travelers earlier this year, Orlando International Airport saw its busiest day in history with more than 200,000 travelers passing through TSA checkpoints on March 16.

While Floridians may be driving or jetting off to other parts of the state and country, Orlando tops the list of domestic travel locations for tourists this weekend, according to AAA booking data. New York, Las Vegas, Miami, Denver, Anchorage and Southern California are also in the top 10 destinations.

Average airfare and gas prices are both slightly higher in 2024 than in 2023, but hotel prices are 5% cheaper this Memorial Day weekend compared to last year. Domestic car rentals are also less expensive by about 17% year-over-year with an average total cost of $439 (typically for a few days).

Using data from Inrix, AAA suggests drivers leaving May 23 or 24 should hit the road early, before 11 a.m., to avoid the worst traffic. Those coming home on May 25 or May 26 will find the best travel time before 1 p.m. On May 27, it’s advised to drive after 7 p.m. for the best chance of avoiding congestion. On all travel days, evenings should also prove less busy for road trippers.

This weekend, AAA is activating its “Tow to Go” program in Florida and other select states to help keep impaired drivers off the road. Tow trucks will be available to AAA members and non-members from 6 p.m. May 24 to 6 a.m. May 28 to transport vehicles and owners to a safe location within a 10-mile radius. Floridians can call 855-2-TOW-2-GO or 855-286-9246 for a safe ride.

As travelers plan for this summer and beyond, AAA has pinpointed bucket lists, milestones, solo trips, luxury vacations, trains, adventures in nature and Asia trips as the primary trends behind booking upcoming getaways.

Find me @PConnPie on Instagram or send me an email: pconnolly@orlandosentinel.com.

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