Memorial Day travel skyrocketed as nearly 43 million Americans journeyed to their destination in 2019. Nearing record-breaking numbers, the surge came to a halt in 2020 as COVID-19 swept through the nation.
From peak to plummet, AAA expects this year's numbers to fall somewhere in the middle – predicting a substantial rebound in Memorial Day travel.
For Penske Truck Rental, the Memorial Day holiday is one of the busiest moving weekends of the summer moving season.
"Memorial Day marks the official start of summer," said Kevin Malloy, vice president of rental for Penske. "It's a shorter work week, most schools are out for the summer and the weather is generally nicer – making it an ideal time to move."
Additionally, the holiday weekend falls at a perfect time in the calendar – a huge advantage for individuals looking to buy, rent or sell. "Most settlements and apartment leases turn over at the end of the month," said Malloy. "We see the economy trending upwards. As the country rebounds, people are feeling much more confident in the housing market."
According to AAA, more than 37 million people are estimated to journey at least 50 miles between May 27 and May 31. This is a 60% increase from last year – only 23 million Americans traveled during the holiday weekend in 2020, the lowest number on record.
Still 6 million fewer travelers than in 2019, this year's projected rebound stems from the accessibility of the COVID-19 vaccine. As the vaccine becomes more widespread, many feel that normalcy is within reach. This includes a return to travel.
"There is a significant pent-up demand for travel," said Julie Hall, AAA Spokesperson. "But it's important that anyone choosing to travel this holiday continue to take precautions to keep themselves and others safe."
Pack Your Patience
As truck drivers and consumer movers gear up for the long weekend, Hall advises them to "pack their patience" before hitting the road.
COVID-19 has led many Americans to favor traveling by car as opposed to planes, trains and other transportation methods. An estimated nine out of 10 holiday travelers will embark on Memorial Day road trips.
Given this high volume, traffic slowdowns are inevitable. Hall recommends "avoiding driving during peak travel times as much as possible." These peaks will likely take place on Thursday, May 27, and Friday, May 28 – specifically in the afternoon. Drivers are warned that they could experience delays that would double, or even triple, their normal travel time.
Sufficient planning extends beyond accounting for traffic. In fact, traveling during a pandemic requires extra preparation. "This isn't the year for spontaneity," Hall said. Instead, she recommends:
- Using your AAA Membership for truck rental discounts from Penske.
- Planning your route ahead of time
- Ensuring your vehicle is in good condition to avoid breakdowns
- Having an emergency roadside kit available
- Packing extra snacks/meals
- Bringing cleaning supplies
- Working with a travel agent
Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that fully vaccinated people can travel domestically at little risk. However, Hall suggests that travelers do their homework before journeying out. She advises:
- Adhering to local and state travel restrictions
- Referring to AAA's COVID-19 Travel Restriction Map
- Utilizing TripTik.AAA.com to stay current on new travel information
- Exploring AAA's new Digital TourBook guides at TourBook.AAA.com
Not vaccinated but still want to partake in Memorial Day travel? The CDC recommends wearing a mask, socially distancing, practicing good hygiene and getting tested before and after the holiday weekend.
As millions prepare for their second COVID-19 summer, travel numbers are likely to fluctuate. "If there is an increase in reported cases attributed to new COVID-19 variants, some people may decide to stay home, while others may note the strong progress in vaccination and make last-minute decisions to travel," said Hall.
Regardless of these fluctuations, Penske and AAA encourage all to take the recommended precautions to ensure a safe, but enjoyable, Memorial Day weekend.
By Nicole Forktus