Despite record high gas prices and inflation concerns, more Americans are expected to travel this Memorial Day weekend than last year, after two years of COVID restrictions.
Gasoline prices hit a national average of $4,599 a gallon on Friday, according to the American Automobile Association (AAA), just below the record $4,600 reached Thursday.
As many as 39.2 million people are expected to travel over Memorial Day weekend in what is considered the unofficial kick-off to summer, AAA said. This is an increase of 8% compared to 2021.
Many Americans will travel by car and the number of trips is expected to increase by 4.6%, according to AAA. But this won’t be the only way people will experience the holiday weekend, as air traffic is expected to grow by 25% and travel by bus, train and cruise ship is expected to increase by 200%, AAA said.
But inflation is causing prices to rise. The average ticket price for the lowest airfare is $184, a 6% increase from 2021, AAA reported. Hotels also charge more, with the average overnight stay costing $230 per night — a 42% increase for their lowest rate, according to the organization.
However, daily rental car rates have fallen by 16%, but finding a car to rent is challenging as vehicles are in high demand and in short supply. The lowest average rate to rent a car is $100 per day, AAA said.
If travelers can find a rental car to get out and about, it will cost them at the pump wherever they go. Gas prices are at “unprecedented” levels, AAA said, and are expected to continue to climb over the coming summer months.
Those heading west to California will pay the most, as gas prices in the state have averaged $6,077 per gallon as of Friday. Most of the west has hit gas prices above $5 a gallon, with much of the Upper East Coast approaching $5 a gallon if they aren’t already there.
But Americans are ready to get out there and travel despite rising gas prices as COVID restrictions have been rolled back and vaccinations have been distributed to the masses.
Ragina Ali, spokeswoman for AAA Mid-Atlantic, told the Washington Post, “I think this year, especially with vaccines readily available and a lot of people getting vaccinated, a lot of people have a desire to travel. The overwhelming, pent-up demand for people to resume some sort of normalcy seems to negate the cost.”