AAA: Despite Highest Gas Prices in Years, Californians Are Gearing Up for Memorial Day

Press Release


WALNUT CREEK, CalifMemorial Day weekend is right around the corner, and Californians are expected to kickoff the unofficial start of summer in record-breaking numbers.

According to AAA’s first travel forecast of the summer, more than 5.4 million Californians are projected to travel over the upcoming three-day weekend. This is an increase of 4.3 percent from last year and the highest number on record for Memorial Day travel in the Golden State. AAA projects that 42.8 million Americans will travel nationwide, a 3.6 percent increase from last year and the highest forecast since 2005.

“Despite local gas prices rising above 4 dollars for the first time since 2014, Californians aren’t slowing down travel plans this Memorial Day,” said Michael Blasky, spokesman for AAA Northern California. “With a solid economy in California, families continue to prioritize spending their disposable income on travel.”

By the Numbers: Memorial Day Travel Forecast

  • 2019 will be the eighth straight year of increased travel in California and fifth consecutive year of nationwide growth for Memorial Day.
  • More than 4.5 million Californians will drive to their destinations, an increase of 4.1 percent over last year.
  • About 549,000 Californians are taking to the skies this Memorial Day, increasing air travel by 5.2 percent over last year.

Outsmart traffic by avoiding worst times to hit the road
For those traveling by car, INRIX, a global transportation analytics company, in collaboration with AAA, predicts drivers will experience the greatest amount of congestion on Thursday, May 23 and Friday, May 24 – in the late afternoon as commuters leave work early and mix with holiday travelers. The San Francisco BayArea is projected to see 1.6x more traffic compared with a normal trip, with Saturday, May 25 projected to be the busiest total travel day.

Road NameRegionDistance (miles)PeakNormal Travel TimePredicted Travel TimeDelay% DelaySpeed (MpH)
US101 SSan Francisco16.645-27-2019
2:30 PM
22 mins54 mins32 mins143%18.5
CA37 ESan Francisco16.585-23-2019
4:30 PM
1 hrs & 0 mins1 hrs & 34 mins34 mins56%10.6
I680 NSan Francisco14.015-23-2019
4:30 PM
48 mins1 hrs & 13 mins25 mins52%11.6
CA37 WSan Francisco16.455-24-2019 16:4523 mins35 mins12 mins50%28.2
I80 SSan Francisco14.545-22-2019
7:45 AM
44 mins1 hrs & 6 mins21 mins48%13.3
US101 NSan Francisco16.45-24-2019
3:30 PM
39 mins56 mins17 mins42%17.7
I680 SSan Francisco13.015-28-2019
7:45 AM
14 mins19 mins5 mins37%41.2
I80 NSan Francisco14.615-23-2019
5:30 PM
54 mins1 hrs & 5 mins11 mins21%13.5


The top domestic destinations for Memorial Day weekend, based on AAA travel bookings, are:

  • Orlando, Florida
  • New York, New York
  • Las Vegas, Nevada
  • Honolulu, Hawaii
  • Anaheim, California

For those travelers planning an international vacation for Memorial Day, Europe is the destination of choice. Rome, London, Dublin and Paris are the most popular locales for international vacations this Memorial Day weekend, with Vancouver, Canada, rounding out the top five.

According to Hertz, a more than 40-year AAA partner, the busiest airport pick-up locations for travelers renting a car this Memorial Day are expected to be Orlando (MCO), Los Angeles (LAX), Denver (DEN), Las Vegas (LAS), and San Francisco (SFO). The busiest day for rental pick-ups is expected to be Friday, May 24, with an average rental length of nearly five days, as travelers look to take advantage of the long holiday weekend.

Travelers to see relief in lower hotel and car rental costs
While road trippers are paying more to fill up their vehicles at the gas pump, some of that additional expense can be made up with lower prices on car rentals and hotels this Memorial Day. According to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, car rental prices have declined 7% compared with last year, with an average daily rate of $55.

Mid-range hotels are between 2% and 3% cheaper this year, with an average nightly rate of $146 and $183, respectively, for AAA Two and Three Diamond Rated properties. Meanwhile, airfares are holding steady compared with last Memorial Day, for an average roundtrip price of $171.

For the purposes of this forecast, the Memorial Day holiday travel period is defined as the five-day period from Thursday, May 23 to Monday, May 27

AAA’s projections are based on economic forecasting and research by IHS Markit. The London-based business information provider teamed with AAA in 2009 to jointly analyze travel trends during major holidays. AAA has been reporting on holiday travel trends for more than two decades.

AAA Northern California
AAA has a proud history of serving Members for over 100 years. AAA is on a mission to create Members for life by unleashing the innovative spirit of 4,000 employees representing nearly 6 million Members across Northern California, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, Montana, Wyoming and Alaska. In addition to legendary roadside assistance, AAA offers home, auto and life insurance, and extraordinary travel services. According to Via Magazine’s Smart Guide, being a AAA Member can save you more than $1,200 a year. Learn more at