RALEIGH — U.S. travelers will hit the roads, rails and airports this Memorial Day Weekend by the largest numbers in more than a decade, despite the highest gasoline prices in four years according to AAA, the nation’s largest automotive advocacy group. In the Tarheel State, AAA estimates a 5 percent increase from last year.
Nationally, more than 41.5 million Americans will travel 50 miles over Memorial Day weekend, a national holiday to remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice in service to our country and its armed forces. Over 1.26 million North Carolinians are expected to hit to road for the weekend which marks the unofficial start of summer. This year will mark the highest travel volume since 2005, when there were some 44 million travelers, according to the AAA.
“Although Carolinians will be filling up at the pumps with the highest gas prices since 2014, that won’t keep them at home,” said Tiffany Wright, AAA Carolinas spokesperson. “A strong economy and growing consumer confidence are giving Carolinians the motivation they need to kick off what we expect to be a busy summer travel season with a Memorial Day getaway.”
The 88 percent of travelers choosing to drive will pay the most expensive Memorial Day gas prices in four years. Gas prices average $2.73 in North Carolina — a 52-cent increase from the $2.21 Memorial Day price in 2017. These higher prices are not keeping holiday travelers home, with automobile travel expected to increase for the fourth straight year.
“A strong economy and growing consumer confidence are giving Americans all the motivation they need to kick off what we expect to be a busy summer travel season with a Memorial Day getaway,” said Bill Sutherland, senior vice president at AAA.
While road trippers will pay higher prices at the gas pump this year, travelers can expect some relief in their wallets when paying for airfare, car rentals and most midrange hotels. According to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, airfares are 7 percent lower than last Memorial Day, landing at an average price of $168 for a round-trip flight along the top 40 domestic routes. At $59, the average daily cost of a car rental this Memorial Day is the lowest rate in the past four years and 11 percent cheaper than last year.
Top Memorial Day travel destinations for Carolinians:
- Myrtle Beach, S.C.
- Washington, D.C.
- Orlando, Fla.
- Asheville, N.C.
- St. Augustine, Fla.
- Dominican Republic