Despite gas prices near $4 a gallon, the Automobile Club of Southern California is projecting a new all-time record number of local Memorial Day travelers for the second year in a row.

Some 5.42 million Californians and 3.35 million from Southern California are expected to take holiday trips. That’s a 4.3 percent increase over last year and the eighth consecutive year that travel for this holiday has grown.

Among Southern California Memorial Day travelers, 2.78 million are expected to travel by car — a 4.1 percent increase from last year and a number representing 83 percent of all travelers. Another 340,000 residents are expected to go by plane, which is a 5.3 percent increase over the 2018 holiday. And about 227,000 local travelers will take a cruise, bus, train, or other mode of trip this weekend — a 6% increase from last year.

Statewide, about 4.5 million Memorial Day travelers are expected to go by car, a 4.1 percent increase from 2018. About 550,000 statewide are projected to fly, a 5.3 percent increase from last year, and 368,000 will go by other means, a six percent increase from 2018.

The Auto Club defines a holiday trip as one at least 50 miles away from home, and the Memorial Day holiday travel period is defined as Thursday, May 23 to Monday, May 27.

“Southern California gas prices are at their highest levels in three years, but consumer confidence and economic growth leading into this holiday are still positive, prompting more people to plan trips,” Jeffrey Spring, Auto Club spokesperson, said in a prepared statement. “And the good news for holiday travelers is that gas prices are dropping, and most drivers should be able to find prices of $3.75 a gallon or lower for regular unleaded by using virtual shopping tools such as the free AAA Mobile app.”

Nationally, 42.8 million Americans are expected to take Memorial Day weekend trips – a 3.6 percent increase over last year. Car travel is expected to rise by 3.5 percent to 37.6 million, while air travel is expected to rise 4.8 percent this year to 3.25 million, and other modes of travel will increase by 3.8 percent to 1.9 million.

Also, Anaheim will be the fifth most popular destination for Americans this holiday, according to advance bookings from AAA Travel. The top destinations nationally in order are Orlando, New York, Las Vegas, Honolulu and Anaheim.

Locally, the top five  destinations for Southern California for Memorial Day travelers, according to a survey of AAA Travel agents, are:

  • Las Vegas
  • San Diego
  • Grand Canyon
  • San Francisco
  • Anaheim

This year’s holiday weekend travelers are paying slightly lower hotel rates on average ($183 a night on average for AAA Three Diamond hotels) compared to last year’s holiday, while airfares are holding steady at about $171 on average and car rental rates are about seven percent lower than in 2018 at $55 per day on average, according to the AAA Leisure Travel Index.

In partnership with the traffic forecasting firm INRIX, AAA is projecting that the worst time to leave for the long weekend in the Los Angeles metropolitan area will be during the afternoon and evening hours on Thursday, May 23 and Friday, May 24. The most impacted freeway segment is expected to be southbound Interstate 5 between Burbank and just past Interstate 605, where travel times are expected to nearly double during the pre-holiday rush. Other outbound freeway routes are also expected to see increased traffic.

AAA expects to rescue more than 353,000 Memorial Day travelers at the roadside this Memorial Day weekend. Dead batteries, flat tires and lockouts will be the leading reasons AAA members will experience car trouble. AAA strongly recommends visiting a trusted mechanic (find one at before a long road trip to check fluid levels, belts and hoses and tires.

Image Sources

  • Las Vegas: Pixaby