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'Travel is back big time,' AAA says. Plan your Memorial Day Weekend accordingly

A member of the station staff pushes a portable wheelchair lift along the platform at an Amtrak station in DeLand, Fla.
William Bout

More Americans are expected to travel this Memorial Day weekend than last. Kara Hitchens with AAA says this should be one of the busiest holiday weekends in about 20 years.

Hitchens says 42.3 million Americans are expected to go somewhere for Memorial Day weekend. That's a 7% increase since last year.

"We have 2.7 million more people travelling this year than we did last year. Travel continues to come back," she says. "The busiest travel was in 2000. But coming back from the COVID shutdowns, we continue to increase."

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Hitchens says it looks like many of those travelers aren't just going somewhere for the weekend. "The trend we have seen is people are bumping the weekend up to vacation days. They're putting those packets together, those days together," she says. "So we're seeing a longer time that people are going to be out of the office and traveling."

Hitchens says the trend is expected to continue.

"It looks like travel is coming back big time. We expect numbers will be up for Fourth of July and Labor Day, even into the fall."

Hitchens says it appears the pandemic has convinced people to get out, make memories and spend more time with friends and loved ones.

"I believe the pandemic really opened a lot of peoples' eyes to that precious time of making memories," she says. "Back in March, we talked about 'plan your vacation day,' which is a time when we remind people you have to put something on the books to make sure that you do take it. Because previously, people left a lot of time on the table, which is like leaving money on the table."

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Hitchens says driving is still the most popular transportation mode, but AAA is also seeing an increase inwhat they call "other" travel: 20% more Americans will be taking buses, trains and cruise ships than last year.

She says despite high prices and airline struggles with cancellations and delays, flights are expected to be about 11% busier than 2022.

Bill Rinehart started his radio career as a disc jockey in 1990. In 1994, he made the jump into journalism and has been reporting and delivering news on the radio ever since.