Kristina Houck | Patch Staff
If you’re among the 42.3 million Americans expected to travel 50 or more miles from home over the May 25-30 Memorial Day holiday week, the auto club AAA’s travel forecast gives advance notice on when to get out of the Inland Empire. AAA expects the six-day period to be the third-busiest since it began measuring Memorial Day travel a decade ago. Most people will drive.
Road trips are expected to be up 6 percent over last year, with about 37.1 million motorists on the roads — about 2 million more people than last year competing for space on highways. The holiday could be one of the busiest at the nation’s airports since Memorial Day in 2005, with nearly 3.4 million people, an 11 percent increase from 2022, expected to fly.
As a result of lower gas prices compared to last year, “drivers should expect long delays this holiday weekend, especially in and around major metros as commuters mix with Memorial Day travelers,” said Bob Pishue, a transportation analyst at INRIX, AAA’s data partner in the forecast. The best times to travel by car are in the morning or evening after 6 p.m. The lightest traffic days will be Saturday and Sunday.
Major metro areas like Boston, New York, Seattle, and Tampa will likely see travel times double compared to normal. Here are some tips from AAA as Inland Empire residents plan their road trips: When you’re leaving, avoid traveling from 3-6 p.m. on both Thursday and Friday. Instead, leave before 1 p.m. on Thursday and noon on Friday. At the end of the weekend, noon-3 p.m. Monday and 4-6 p.m. Tuesday are expected to be busy. Better times are before 10 a.m. Monday, and before 2 p.m. or after 6 p.m. on Tuesday.
In Southern California, the route from Los Angeles to San Diego via southbound I-5 is expected to be about 47 percent busier than usual at 1 p.m. Sunday, making travel time an estimated 3 hours and 24 minutes. The returning route from Las Vegas to Los Angeles via southbound I-15 is expected to be about 41 percent busier than usual at 3 p.m. Monday.
Tourist hotspots such as Orlando, New York City and Las Vegas are top domestic destinations for the Memorial Day weekend, according to AAA booking data. With many Southern California residents traveling to Las Vegas, it is one of the busiest weekends of the year for traffic on Inland Empire freeways, including I-15 and state Route 91.
Even with lower gas prices, travel will be more expensive overall, in large part because of the rising cost of airline tickets. AAA said its booking data shows a 40 percent increase in airfares to this year’s top destinations. International travel is surging as well, with a 250 percent increase over 2022.
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