Just shy of pre-pandemic numbers for the region

15 May 2023

OMAHA, NE., (May 15, 2023) – Nebraskans and others from surrounding states are forecast to travel in near record numbers for Memorial Day weekend. According to AAA’s 2023 Memorial Day Travel Forecast, nearly 3.5 travelers from the West North Central Region ((WNC): IA, KS, MN, MO, ND, NE, SD) will journey 50 miles or more. That’s 264,000 more than last year but 79,000 less than before the pandemic, in 2019.

WNC Regional travel numbers are set to near pre-pandemic record highs in both the auto and air travel categories. An estimated 3 million will drive, which is 157,000 more than last year but 102,000 less than 2019. Meanwhile, 136,000 are forecast to fly, which is 28,000 more passengers than last year’s holiday but 16,000 less than pre-pandemic numbers.  

“Memorial Day weekend is the kickoff to what promises to be a very busy summer travel season,” said Debbie Haas, Vice President of Travel for AAA – The Auto Club Group. “Despite various inflationary pressures, consumer spending is strong, and Americans still want to travel. Because of that, we’ve seen demand come roaring back, just shy of pre-pandemic levels in for Nebraska and the surrounding areas.”

West North Central (WNC): Holiday Travel Volumes
IA, KS, MN, MO, ND, NE, SD

 

Total

Auto

Air

Other

2023

3,548,000

3,040,000

136,000

347,000

2022

3,284,000

2,883,000

108,000

265,000

2019

3,627,000

3,142,000

152,000

303,000

 

Overall National Travel Figures are Third Highest for the Holiday

Although state holiday travel figures are poised to reach record highs, national travel numbers are still slightly behind pre-pandemic levels. Click here to read the full report.

Total Travelers – AAA projects 42.3 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home this Memorial Day weekend*. That’s 2.7 million (+7%) more travelers than last year, but fewer people than what was reported in 2019 (42.8 million) and 2005 (44 million).

Air Travel – Despite higher ticket prices, demand for flights is soaring. AAA predicts the strongest air travel numbers since 2005. Nearly 3.4 million travelers are expected to fly for the holiday weekend. That’s 33,700 (11%) more passengers than last year, and 170,000 (5.4%) more than in 2019.

Airfares – Travelers are paying more for Memorial Day trips this year, in large part due to the rising cost of airline tickets. AAA booking data shows a 40% increase in airfares to this year’s Top Destinations.

Auto Travel – Memorial Day road trips are up 6% from last year. An estimated 37.1 million Americans will drive to their destinations. That’s 2 million more than last year, but 500,000 fewer than 2019 numbers. Driving remains the preferred mode of transportation for 88% of holiday travelers.

Gas Prices – Gas prices have moved lower in recent weeks, yet It’s too early to know if that downward trend will continue in the lead-up to the summer kick-off.
(May 15, 2023, prices – Nebraska $3.30 per gallon and Iowa $3.33 per gallon on average)

However, it’s unlikely that prices will come anywhere near the state average that holiday travelers paid last year of $4.19 per gallon in Nebraska and $4.22 in Iowa.

*Memorial Day Holiday Travel Period

For purposes of this forecast, the Memorial Day holiday travel period is defined as the five-day period from Thursday, May 25 to Monday, May 29. The five-day holiday length is consistent with previous holiday periods.

Best/Worst Times to Travel and Peak Congestion by Metro

Friday, May 26 will be the busiest day on the roads, according to INRIX, a provider of transportation data and insights. The best times to travel by car, during the holiday weekend, will be in the morning or evening after 6 p.m. The lightest traffic days will be Saturday and Sunday.

To avoid congestion, INRIX suggests driving during non-peak hours or using alternative routes.

Top Destinations

AAA is seeing increased demand for iconic cities, international vacation packages, and cruises with included amenities that provide added value for the price.

  • Tourist hotspots like Orlando, New York City, and Las Vegas are top domestic destinations, according to AAA booking data for the Memorial Day weekend.
  • Other popular U.S. cities this Memorial Day include Denver, Boston, Anaheim, and Canton, Ohio – home of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
  • Domestic cruise bookings have increased 50% from last year. Cruise port cities in Florida and Alaska, as well as Seattle, are high on the list. View AAA’s 14 Insider Cruise Tips for your First Voyage.

International Travel is Hot

International travel is surging with bookings 250% higher this holiday weekend compared to 2022. European cities are the most popular, including Rome, Paris, Dublin, London, Barcelona, and Athens. International car rentals are up more than 80% over 2022. AAA reports strong sales for International Driving Permits this year, almost double what they were last year.

Strong travel demand and pandemic-related backlogs have caused passport processing delays, resulting in an unprecedented number of applications for expedited passport and visa services with RushMyPassport. AAA members get exclusive rates when using passport courier service.

 

Holiday Forecast Methodology

Travel Forecast

In cooperation with AAA, S&P Global Market Intelligence developed a unique methodology to forecast actual domestic travel volumes. The economic variables used to forecast travel for the current holiday are leveraged from S&P Global Market Intelligence’s proprietary databases. These data include macroeconomic drivers such as employment, output, household net worth, asset prices including stock indices, interest rates, housing market indicators, and variables related to travel and tourism including gasoline prices, airline travel, and hotel stays. AAA and S&P Global Market Intelligence have quantified holiday travel volumes going back to 2000.

Historical travel volume estimates come from DK SHIFFLET’s TRAVEL PERFORMANCE/MonitorSM. The PERFORMANCE/MonitorSM is a comprehensive study measuring the travel behavior of U.S. residents. DK SHIFFLET contacts over 50,000 U.S. households each month to obtain detailed travel data, resulting in the unique ability to estimate visitor volume and spending, identify trends, and forecast U.S. travel behavior —all after the trips have been taken. 

The travel forecast is reported in person-trips. In particular, AAA and SPGMI forecast the total U.S. holiday travel volume and expected mode of transportation. The travel forecast presented in this report was prepared the week of April 17, 2023.

About AAA - The Auto Club Group

The Auto Club Group (ACG) is the second largest AAA club in North America with more than 13 million members across 14 U.S. states, the province of Quebec and two U.S. territories. ACG and its affiliates provide members with roadside assistance, insurance products, banking and financial services, travel offerings and more. ACG belongs to the national AAA federation with more than 62 million members in the United States and Canada. AAA’s mission is to protect and advance freedom of mobility and improve traffic safety. For more information, get the AAA Mobile app, visit AAA.com, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

About S&P Global

S&P Global (NYSE: SPGI) provides essential intelligence. We enable governments, businesses and individuals with the right data, expertise and connected technology so that they can make decisions with conviction. From helping our customers assess new investments to guiding them through ESG and energy transition across supply chains, we unlock new opportunities, solve challenges and accelerate progress for the world. We are widely sought after by many of the world’s leading organizations to provide credit ratings, benchmarks, analytics and workflow solutions in the global capital, commodity and automotive markets. With every one of our offerings, we help the world’s leading organizations plan for tomorrow, today. For more information, visit www.spglobal.com.

About DKSA

DK SHIFFLET boasts the industry’s most complete database on U.S. resident travel both in the U.S. and worldwide. Data is collected monthly from a U.S. representative sample, adding over 60,000 traveling households annually and is used daily by leading travel organizations and their strategic planning groups. DK SHIFFLET is an MMGY Global company.

About INRIX  

Founded in 2004, INRIX pioneered intelligent mobility solutions by transforming big data from connected devices and vehicles into mobility insights. This revolutionary approach enabled INRIX to become one of the leading providers of data and analytics into how people move. By empowering cities, businesses, and people with valuable insights, INRIX is helping to make the world smarter, safer, and greener. With partners and solutions spanning across the entire mobility ecosystem, INRIX is uniquely positioned at the intersection of technology and transportation – whether it’s keeping road users safe, improving traffic signal timing to reduce delay and greenhouse gasses, optimizing last mile delivery, or helping uncover market insights. Learn more at INRIX.com.

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