Nearly 785,000 Coloradans will travel this Memorial Day weekend, according to the latest forecast from AAA Colorado.
Those travelers will join the ranks of nearly 43 million Americans vacationing over the long holiday weekend — the second-highest overall travel volume on record and the most Memorial Day automobile travel ever recorded by AAA.
All told, 1.5 million more Americans will take to the nation’s roads, rails, and runways this year, compared with 2018, a 3.6 percent increase marked by rising consumer confidence.
While gas prices continue to trend upward across the country, 88 percent of holiday travelers are committed to road-tripping during Memorial Day.
Nearly 690,000 Coloradans will travel by car for the holiday, a 3.75 percent increase despite gas averaging a dime more than it did this time last year.
“Slightly more expensive gas just isn’t going to keep anybody home this Memorial Day weekend,” AAA Colorado spokesman Skyler McKinley said. “Increasingly optimistic about their economic futures, Coloradans have prioritized saving for and spending money on travel, and near-record numbers will do just that for Memorial Day.”
The vast majority of travelers — 37.6 million — will hit the road, the most on record for Memorial Day and 3.5 percent more than last year. In Colorado, nearly 690,000 Coloradans will travel by car.
About 3.25 million Americans will take to the skies, 4.8 percent more than last year. That includes nearly 70,000 Coloradans.
Travel on trains, buses and cruise ships will increase by 3.8 percent to 1.9 million passengers nationwide, including nearly 30,000 who call Colorado home.
AAA, in collaboration with analytics firm INRX, predicts that drivers will experience the greatest amount of congestion on Thursday, May 23, and Friday, May 24, in the late afternoon, as commuters leave work early and mix with holiday travelers.
Nationwide, gas prices have increased by more than 30 cents in the last two months, and the national average is approaching $3 per gallon — on par with prices at this time last year.
In Colorado, motorists can expect to pay between $2.95 and $3.25 throughout the Memorial Day holiday period. Prices are currently highest in Vail ($3.21) and lowest in in Denver ($2.79). Drivers should expect those prices to rise over Memorial Day by dint of increased demand.
“Per our research, more expensive gas prices may jolt travelers into shortening the distance of their road trip, eating out less or looking for free activities,” McKinley said. “But gas prices won’t generally stop someone in their tracks if they had already planned on traveling, as many Coloradans have.”
Solid job and income growth, along with an elevated consumer mood, remain fundamental drivers for U.S. consumer spending, including holiday travel.
While economic growth has begun to cool over previous years, real GDP should increase 2.4 percent compared with a year ago, and the national unemployment rate is expected to fall to 3.6 percent, the lowest level in 50 years.
Consumer optimism hasn’t fully recovered from declines seen in late 2018, but near-term expectations remain in line with the levels seen at this time last year.
While road trippers will pay more to fill up their vehicles at the gas pump, they’ll make up that expense with lower prices on car rentals and hotels this Memorial Day.
Per AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, car rental prices have declined 7 percent from last year, with an average daily rate of $55.
Mid-range hotels are between 2 and 3 percent cheaper this year, with an average nightly rate of $146 and $183, respectively, for AAA Two and Three Diamond Rated properties.
Airfares are holding steady compared to last Memorial Day, for an average roundtrip price of $171.
Per research from AAA partner Hertz, Denver International Airport (DIA) will be among the busiest pick-up locations for travelers renting a car this Memorial Day — joining Orlando (MCO), Los Angeles (LAX), Las Vegas (LAS) and San Francisco (SFO).
The busiest day for rental pick-ups will be Friday, May 24, with an average rental length of nearly five days, as travelers look to take advantage of the long holiday weekend.
Nationwide, AAA expects to be called on to rescue more than 353,000 motorists at the roadside this Memorial Day weekend. Dead batteries, flat tires and lockouts are the leading reasons AAA members will experience car trouble.
AAA recommends motorist stake their vehicles to a trusted repair facility to perform any needed maintenance before heading out on a road trip. Be prepared for emergencies with a mobile phone and car charger, a flashlight with extra batteries, a first-aid kit, a basic toolkit, and drinking water and snacks for all passengers.
AAA’s projections are based on economic forecasting and research by IHS Markit, a London-based business information provider. For the purposes of this forecast, the Memorial Day holiday travel period is defined as the five-day period from Thursday, May 23 to Monday, May 27.
The complete AAA/IHS Markit 2019 Memorial Day
holiday travel forecast is available