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AAA predicts Memorial Day travel will be busiest in 3 years

AAA predicts over 1 million North Carolinians will hit the road for Memorial Day despite record gas prices across the country.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Memorial Day weekend is expected to be the busiest it's been in three years despite record gas prices across the country, AAA said. 

Debbie Haas, the vice president of travel for AAA, said the company forecasts the second-highest single-year increase in travelers since 2010, following the record increase we saw last year. 

"By the looks of this Memorial Day travel forecast, the summer travel season is off to a sizzling start," Haas said in a news release. "People are more comfortable traveling now than any other time in the past two years, and travel bookings are a reflection of that." 

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Haas said reservations for flights, hotels and cruises are twice as strong as last Memorial Day, and it's safe to say a lot of folks in North Carolina were bit by the travel bug. 

"Airfares are more expensive if you haven’t booked, I don’t know what you’re waiting for book now," Tiffany Wright, a AAA spokesperson, said.

AAA predicts nearly 1.2 million North Carolinians will travel 50 miles or mile this Memorial Day weekend, marking a 7.2% increase from last year, bringing traffic volumes close to pre-pandemic levels in 2019. 

Despite historically high gas prices in the Carolinas, AAA said it expects 90% of Memorial Day travelers to drive. Nearly 1.1 million North Carolinians are expected to take a holiday road trip, up 4.6% from last year. 

"Carolinians are eager to travel again, and it doesn't seem like record-high gas prices or other inflationary pressures will stop them," Wright said. "Many may look at cost-cutting measures to offset the added expense, like driving shorter distances, staying in a less expensive hotel or spending less on shopping, dining and entertainment."

And those record gas prices are expected to keep climbing. The average price for gas in North Carolina is $4.26 per gallon. The previous record for Memorial Day gas prices was $3.90 per gallon in 2008. 

Wright offers some advice, as they've seen an increase in road rage.

“People are getting a little bit more aggressive behind the wheel and it’s because people are so excited with all this pent-up energy," Wright said. “Make sure you’re in the right state of mind before you get behind the wheel.”   

And with the summer travel season around the corner, the CDC is recommendation Americans get tested within three days of departure, even if they're fully vaccinated. 

Travel experts say if you are flying, book as soon as possible due to skyrocketing prices. Also, plan ahead and arrive at the airport at least two hours before your flight. 

Best times to travel for Memorial Day drivers

  • Thursday: Before 6 a.m. or after 9 p.m. 
  • Friday: Before 7 a.m. or after 9 p.m. 
  • Saturday: Before 10 a.m. 
  • Sunday: Before 10 a.m. 
  • Monday: Before 11 a.m.

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