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Record Travel Expected For Memorial Day 2024: Here’s When To Leave NJ



NEW JERSEY — If you’re planning to get out of New Jersey for the three-day Memorial Day weekend, knowing when to avoid the busiest times on major routes can make the difference between a stress-free holiday or one the kids will never let you forget.

Some 43.8 million Americans are expected to travel at least 50 miles from home to celebrate Memorial Day in 2024. That’s a 4 percent increase from last year, AAA said in its annual Memorial Day travel forecast. Travel this year could approach the record set in 2005, when 44 million people took Memorial Day trips.

Memorial Day, the unofficial start to summer, has always been a big road trip holiday. About 38.4 million people plan to take off in their cars, the highest number for the holiday since AAA began tracking Memorial Day travel in 2000.

Airports are expected to be busier than last year, too, with about 3.51 million people flying to their Memorial Day destinations, 4.8 percent more than last year and 9 percent more than pre-pandemic 2019. Crowds could rival the post 9/11 recovery in 2005, when 3.64 million people flew, AAA said.

“We haven’t seen Memorial Day weekend travel numbers like these in almost 20 years.” Paula Twidale, a senior vice president at AAA Travel, said in a news release. “We’re projecting an additional 1 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.”

The number of people taking road trips this year is projected to be 4 percent higher than last year, and 1.9 percent higher than before the pandemic in 2019. If you’re looking for some fun things around New Jersey, here are a few long-time favorite places:

  • Drive the Jersey Shore: This quintessential New Jersey road trip is about 125 miles via the Garden State Parkway but is best spread over two or three days so there will be plenty of time to explore interesting charming beach towns, see lighthouses and stroll along the state’s famous boardwalks.
  • Take a haunted road trip: If you’re haunted by the notion of paranormal activity, stick around Cape May for some potentially hair-raising encounters at Emlen Physick Estate, the Cape May Lighthouse or Hotel Macomber, where a shabbily dressed waitress and former patron of the hotel can be heard dragging her trunk across the floor.
  • Immerse yourself in the arts: For a small town of a little over 14,000 residents, Collingswood has a lot going for it. It’s gaining quite a reputation as an arts town with a range of vintage to modern theaters, community arts centers, seasonal festivals and its dining scene. The area is about 80 miles from Newark on I-95 South.

Read more: 5 New Jersey Road Trips (The Shore, Of Course, But Ghostly Things, Too)

Gas prices should be approximately the same as last year, when the national average for regular gasoline was about $3.57 per gallon. On Monday in New Jersey, regular gasoline sold for $3.516 a gallon.

Pump prices always creep higher as the summer driving season gets underway, and wars in Ukraine and the Middle East could roil the oil market, AAA cautioned.

Travel Times To Avoid

AAA’s transportation data partner, INRIX, says drivers who are leaving on Thursday and Friday should get on the road early to avoid peak commute time. Travelers returning from their getaways on Sunday and Monday should avoid the peak travel afternoon hours.

“Travel times are expected to be 90 percent longer than normal,” Bob Pishue, a transportation analyst at INRIX, said in a news release. He advised road trippers to remain up to date on traffic apps, 511 services and local news stations to avoid sitting in traffic any longer than necessary.

These are the best and worst times to travel by car (all times local):

Thursday, May 23

Here are the peak congestion times for busy metropolitan routes, the estimated travel time and the increase in traffic due to the holiday:

  • Atlanta: Atlanta to Savannah via I–16E; 4:45 p.m. Saturday; 5 hours, 14 minutes, 54 percent longer than normal.
  • Boston: Manchester to Boston via I-93S; 8:45 a.m Sunday; 1 hour, 48 minutes, 50 percent longer than normal.
  • Chicago: Milwaukee to Chicago via I-94E; 4:30 p.m. Sunday; 2 hours, 25 minutes, 27 percent longer than normal.
  • Denver: Fort Collins to Denver via I-25S; 4:15 p.m. Sunday; 1 hour, 24 minutes, 56 percent longer than normal.
  • Detroit: Detroit to Kalamazoo via I-94E; 8:45 p.m. Sunday; 2 hours, 48 minutes, 40 percent longer than normal.
  • Houston: Galveston to Houston via I-45N; 5 p.m. Sunday; 1 hour, 11 minutes, 73 percent longer than normal.
  • Los Angeles: LA to Bakersfield via I-5N, 6:15 p.m. Thursday, 2 hours, 45 minutes, 84 percent longer than normal.
  • Minneapolis: Eau Claire, Wisconsin, to Minneapolis via I-94W; 8:45 a.m. Monday; 1 hour, 45 minutes, 38 percent longer than normal.
  • New York: New York City to Albany via I-87N, 11:45 a.m. Thursday; 2 hours, 37 minutes, 64 percent longer than normal.
  • Philadelphia: Philadelphia to Baltimore/Washington, D.C., via I-95; 7:30 a.m. Friday, 43 percent longer than normal.
  • Portland: Hood River to Portland via I-84W; 6:30 p.m. Monday; 1 hour, 20 minutes, 42 percent longer than normal.
  • San Diego: San Diego to Palm Springs via I-5N; 6:30 p.m. Monday; 1 hour, 20 minutes, 34 percent longer than normal.
  • San Francisco: San Francisco to Napa via I-80E; 11 a.m. Friday; 3 hours, 4 minutes, 56 percent longer than normal.
  • Seattle: Ellensburg to Seattle via I-90E; 4:30 p.m. Sunday; 2 hours, 34 minutes, 58 percent longer than normal.
  • Tampa: Gainesville to Tampa via I-75S; 9 a.m. Sunday; 3 hours, 47 minutes 88 percent longer than normal.
  • Washington, D.C.: Washington to Baltimore via Baltimore/Washington Pkwy N; 2:15 p.m. Friday; 1 hour, 25 minutes, 72 percent longer than normal.

Other Means Of Travel Rebound

While most people are either driving or flying to their Memorial Day destinations, about 1.9 million people will take trains, buses and cruises, an increase of 5.6 percent from last year, AAA said.

“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.”

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