: Memorial Day weekend travel: gas prices drop slightly — to $4.59 a gallon — as 34.9 million cars hit the road

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An extra three million Americans expected to travel this Memorial Day Weekend compared to last year, according to projections from AAA.

Overall, 39.2 million travelers will be taking to the roads and skies, according to AAA estimates. That’s an 8.3% increase from the 36.2 million travelers who set out to see friends and family in the first Memorial Day Weekend after COVID-19 vaccines became widely available.

This year’s projected Memorial Day travelers, mostly by car, are still off from pre-pandemic levels. In 2019, 42.8 million drove at least 50 miles or booked flights, AAA said. That’s a decrease of more than 8%.

The national average Thursday for a gallon of gas was $4.60, up seven cents from this time last week, AAA said. When Americans were firming up their Memorial Day plans one year ago, the national average was $3.04, according to AAA data.

People may yet revisit their weekend and/or summer plans. “Against a backdrop of gas prices that have continued to set new records ahead of Memorial Day, Americans have been resilient in their desire to hit the road, but we’re certainly seeing increased hesitancy due to rising prices at the pump,” said Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis for GasBuddy.

“An extra three million Americans expected to travel this Memorial Day Weekend compared to last year, according to new projections from AAA on the start of the summer travel season.”

AAA is estimating 3 million people will fly over the weekend, up from the 2.4 million who flew in the weekend last year, but down from the 3.2 million flying passengers in 2019.

Flyers will be paying more this year, with airfares up 28% compared to 2019, according to a Memorial Day air travel outlook from Hopper, a site to shop for flights and hotels. Round trip domestic airfare will cost $394 on average and international round trips will cost an average $917, according to Hopper.

Record-high inflation has led to widespread uncertainty over the costs of vacation plans, De Haan added. “The COVID factor is still present, but has been dwarfed this year by Americans’ concern over high gas prices and dwindling affordable travel options to make use of the best months of the year.” 

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(Quentin Fottrell contributed to this story.)

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