Editors: Video/audio interview soundbites with Auto Club spokespeople about the Memorial Day forecast are available in both English and Spanish along with video B-roll of three of the top Southern California destinations that are national parks (please credit AAA).
The Automobile Club of Southern California is projecting a robust return to travel this Memorial Day weekend as a result of increased vaccinations, declining COVID-19 statistics and pent-up demand. More than 2.8 million Southern Californians are expected to take trips over the holiday weekend – a 64% increase from last year. Just 1.7 million Southern Californians traveled over last year’s holiday, which was a 49% drop from 2019 and the lowest number since AAA began tracking holiday travel numbers in 2000.
By the numbers
Nearly 90% of all travelers are expected to drive to their destinations, while more than 9% will fly and less than 1% will go by other means, since cruises from American ports are cancelled and fewer people are using trains or buses.
“These holiday getaway numbers are very encouraging, and we expect travel to continue to strengthen once cruising and other options reopen,” said Filomena Andre, the Auto Club’s vice president for travel. “Because COVID-19 restrictions can vary widely from place to place and can change quickly, the Auto Club strongly recommends getting travel insurance and working with a AAA travel advisor.”
Andre also advised travelers to use AAA’s COVID-19 restrictions map at TripTik.AAA.com to plan out their road trips and stops along the way. The map is updated daily.
Top travel destinations
The top five destinations for Southern California travelers, according to a survey of Auto Club travel advisors, are:
1) Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks, Utah
2) Las Vegas
3) Grand Canyon National Park
4) San Diego
5) Yosemite National Park
Among local travelers who are flying, Hawaii is the top destination.
More than 115,000 California motorists will need AAA Roadside Assistance
The Auto Club and AAA in Northern California expect to come to the rescue of more than 115,000 motorists statewide over the holiday period between May 27 and May 31. Because many vehicles sat idle during the pandemic and maintenance may have been neglected, the Auto Club strongly recommends having vehicles checked by a qualified mechanic before leaving on a road trip. For a list of quality auto repair facilities near you, visit AAA.com/Repair or use the free AAA Mobile app.
Southern California gas prices are well over $4 a gallon in most locations and continuing to rise due to some local supply issues, but they are similar to the price levels at this time in 2019. The Auto Club recommends using a tool like the free AAA Mobile app to locate the cheapest gas prices near your location.
INRIX, Auto Club predict heightened traffic over holiday
While the number of Memorial Day travelers will not be as high as in 2019, the transportation analytics firm INRIX projects significant traffic congestion in several areas on Thursday, May 27 and Friday, May 28 in the afternoon and evening, particularly on Interstate 5, Interstate 405 and Interstate 10 in Los Angeles County. The Auto Club urges travelers to allow extra time to get to their destinations, especially if they must travel through Los Angeles during the typical evening rush hour period.
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 Thursday, May 27 through Monday, May 31. The five-day holiday period is consistent with previous Memorial Day holiday periods. This forecast was finalized during the week of April 12.
In cooperation with AAA, IHS Markit developed a unique methodology to forecast actual domestic travel volumes, using macroeconomic drivers such as employment, output, household net worth, asset prices including stock indices, interest rates, housing market indicators, and variables related to travel and tourism, including prices of gasoline, airline travel and hotel stays. For the 2021 Memorial Day holiday travel forecast, IHS Markit also examined changes in the IHS Markit containment index regarding COVID‑19–related restrictions and activity.