Personal Finance

The worst times to travel on Memorial Day weekend

Key Points
  • 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 the 405 freeway North.
Pictures Ltd. | Corbis | Getty Images

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.

How much more pain can drivers expect at the gas pump?

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 areaWorst day for travelWorst time for travelDelay multiplier of normal trip
AtlantaThursday, May 243:30 - 5:30 p.m.1.6x
HoustonThursday, May 244:30 - 6:00 p.m.1.5x
BostonThursday, May 244:30 - 6:30 p.m.1.8x
Washington, D.C.Thursday, May 244:30 - 7:00 p.m.2.3x
San FranciscoFriday, May 253:00 - 5:30 p.m.1.7x
Los AngelesFriday, May 253:30 - 5:30 p.m.1.9x
New YorkFriday, May 253:30 - 6:30 p.m.2.7x
DetroitFriday, May 254:00 - 5:30 p.m.1.5x
Chicago Friday, May 254:00 - 6:00 p.m.2.1x
SeattleFriday, May 254:00 - 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

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

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