AAA estimates 36.1 million people will put the long, rough winter in the rearview mirror by traveling during the Memorial Day holiday, USA Today reports.
This year’s estimate, which includes nearly 31.8 million consumers traveling by automobile, is a 1.5% increase over the number of travelers last year.
Nearly 2.6 million consumers will fly to their Memorial weekend destination, while 1.7 million will travel by train, bus or ship.
The higher number of travelers this year represents the most since 2000, and the highest since the beginning of the Great Recession.
Marshall Doney, AAA’s chief operating officers, says the increase in travelers could be related to the unusually tough winter many experienced this year.
“While the start of summer brings thoughts of sandy beaches, warmer temperatures and tropical destinations, it is in fact the freezing cold winter that blanketed much of the country earlier this year that has generated hot demand for summer travel,” Doney says. “The (travel) forecast reflects that many people are sick of hibernating indoors and ready to enjoy some summer fun.”
Other industries are also seeing an increase in travelers this year. Best Western hotels estimates at 7% increase in travelers over last summer’s bookings.
AAA officials say the cruise industry is faring particularly well this year. An increase of nearly 20% is expected in passengers for the upcoming holiday.
Additionally, the airline industry may be rejoicing in the estimated increase in travelers. This past winter saw the most flight cancellations in decades due to poor weather.
Consumers hoping to get a jump-start on the holiday weekend should hit the road Thursday or early Friday. If you simply can’t leave work early, congestion mitigation experts suggest leaving after 7 p.m. Friday.
While taking off for the weekend generally involves opening your wallet, officials with AAA say it shouldn’t be too painful. Gas prices are expected to continue falling during the weekend. Prices currently average $3.65 per gallon, while they were $3.63 a gallon last year.