Memorial Day travel expected to be record-breaking

Memorial Day weekend travelers can expect congested highways as record numbers of Southern Californians head out of town for the holiday, the Auto Club is predicting.
(Don Bartletti / McClatchy-Tribune)

Travel over the Memorial Day weekend is expected to be the busiest on record with more than 3.2 million Southern Californians forecast to leave home — a 5.3 percent over last year.

According to the Automobile Club of Southern California, the last record was set in 2005 when 3.2 million Southern Californians traveled over the holiday weekend.

The coming holiday will mark the seventh consecutive year that travel has grown, says the Auto Club.

Similar records will likely be broken for statewide travel, with nearly 5.2 million Californians projected to take trips.

Rising gas prices do not seem to be dissuading locals from making plans to drive long distances for their holiday trips.

Expect the highways to be especially congested, considering the 2.68 million Southern Californians who will be traveling by car, also a more than 5 percent increase over last year’s numbers. Statewide, more than 4.3 million people will be hitting the roads for their getaways, estimates the Auto Club, which defines a holiday trip as one that is at least 50 miles away from home between Thursday, May 24 to Monday, May 28.

“Gas prices are about 24 percent higher in Southern California than they were at this time last year with an average price near $3.75 a gallon, but consumer confidence combined with a strong labor market and projected GDP growth are the primary reasons that holiday travel is expected to increase,” said Jeffrey Spring, a spokesperson for the Auto Club.

The average price for a gallon of gas in San Diego was $3.72 on Tuesday. (A year ago the average was $2.99.)

National travel trends are expected to parallel those of Southern California for the holiday weekend, although no records will be broken. More than 41 million Americans are expected to take Memorial Day weekend trips, a 4.8 percent increase over last year, but still under the holiday travel record of 44 million set in 2005.

While San Diego is among the top five holiday destinations for Southern California travelers, it did not make it into the 10 most favored getaway cities nationally. Topping that list were Orlando, Seattle and Honolulu. Anaheim was the only California city to make the list.

For those braving the roads during the Memorial Day weekend, Waze, the free community-based navigation app, is predicting when the roads will be most congested.

After analyzing its 2017 data, Waze says the following times will be the worst for driving:

Friday, May 25: 3 p.m to 5 p.m.

Saturday, May 26 – Monday, May 28: 12 p.m. to 2 p.m.

Tuesday, May 29: 3 p.m to 5 p.m.


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