Personal Finance

Americans face high gas prices, crowded roads this Memorial Day weekend

Key Points
  • A record number of Americans are planning to travel this Memorial Day weekend, despite high gas prices.
  • Gas prices currently average $2.93 per gallon nationally and could climb this weekend.
  • There are certain days and times you may want to avoid the roads and airports in major U.S. cities.
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If you plan to hit the roads this Memorial Day weekend, get ready to pay more at the pump.

Gas prices are poised to be the highest for the holiday weekend since 2014, according to travel organization AAA. Those prices averaged $2.93 nationally per gallon as of Tuesday.

"Gas prices are nearly 60 cents more expensive than last year and will likely jump a few more pennies heading into Memorial Day weekend," said AAA spokeswoman Jeanette Casselano. "As nearly 37 million Americans travel by car this weekend, motorists will find gas for $3 or more at 25 percent of all gas stations across the country."

Those costs are not likely to deter many travelers, Casselano said, many of whom booked their trips months in advance.

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 summer, according to research released by AAA earlier this month.

That's the highest number of travelers in more than 12 years and about a 5 percent increase from last year.

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The good news for travelers 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, AAA said.

A daily car rental will cost an average of $59, about 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 this Thursday and Friday.

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 are the cities that will get more crowded over the four-day weekend.

Top Memorial Day destinations

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