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The worst times to travel on Memorial Day weekend

  • A record number of Americans are planning to travel this Memorial Day weekend in spite of high gas prices.
  • There are certain days and times you may want to avoid the roads and airports in major U.S. cities.
Evening traffic leaving Los Angeles on 405 freeway North.
Pictures Ltd. | Corbis | Getty Images
Evening traffic leaving Los Angeles on 405 freeway North.

If you plan to travel this Memorial Day weekend, you will have plenty of company.

A record number of Americans — more than 41.5 million — are expected to take to the roads, tarmacs and water on the weekend that kicks off the official start of summer, according to travel organization AAA.

That is the highest number of travelers in more than 12 years and about a 5 percent increase from last year, according to AAA's research.

Gas prices, which averaged $2.72 in April, are also poised to be the highest for the holiday weekend since 2014.

"When people are planning these trips, they do so months in advance," AAA spokeswoman Tamra Johnson said. While gas prices have risen since then, that doesn't usually deter people once they've made plans, she said.

The good news for travellers is that airfares have fallen 7 percent from last Memorial Day to an average of $168 for a round-trip flight for popular domestic routes.

A daily car rental will cost an average of $59, 11 percent cheaper than last year and the lowest rate in the past four years.

The busiest days for travel over the holiday weekend are expected to be Thursday, May 24, and Friday, May 25.

Here are the worst days and times to travel, according to global analytics company INRIX, which partnered with AAA for the study.

Worst times to travel

Metro area Worst day for travel Worst time for travel Delay multiplier of normal trip
Atlanta Thursday, May 24 3:30 - 5:30 p.m. 1.6x
Houston Thursday, May 24 4:30 - 6:00 p.m. 1.5x
Boston Thursday, May 24 4:30 - 6:30 p.m. 1.8x
Washington, D.C. Thursday, May 24 4:30 - 7:00 p.m. 2.3x
San Francisco Friday, May 25 3:00 - 5:30 p.m. 1.7x
Los Angeles Friday, May 25 3:30 - 5:30 p.m. 1.9x
New York Friday, May 25 3:30 - 6:30 p.m. 2.7x
Detroit Friday, May 25 4:00 - 5:30 p.m. 1.5x
Chicago Friday, May 25 4:00 - 6:00 p.m. 2.1x
Seattle Friday, May 25 4:00 - 6:00 p.m. 1.8x

The report also looked at the top Memorial Day destinations based on advance travel bookings made through AAA.

Here's the cities that will get more crowded over the four-day weekend.

Top Memorial Day destinations

Rank City
1 Orlando, Florida
2 Seattle, Washington
3 Honolulu, Hawaii
4 Las Vegas, Nevada
5 Anchorage, Alaska
6 Phoenix, Arizona
7 Anaheim, California
8 Boston, Massachusetts
9 Denver, Colorado
10 New York, New York

The popularity of Seattle and Anchorage as destinations point to the popularity of Alaskan cruises, Johnson said.