These Are the Best and Worst Times to Travel This Memorial Day Weekend

We've got expert advice from AAA and Skyscanner for your long weekend travel.

Roughly 42.3 million people will be traveling by road for Memorial Day weekend, a 7% increase in travelers compared to 2022. With so many people on the roads, in order for your trip to have minimum stress, travel will need to be well planned. Fortunately, AAA and INRIX have done the analytical work to help you plan the best time to be on the road to avoid the busiest Memorial Day weekend traffic.

"With lower fuel prices and more travelers on the road compared to last year, drivers should expect long delays this holiday weekend, especially in and around major metros as commuters mix with Memorial Day travelers," Bob Pishue, transportation analyst at INRIX, said in a statement. "Knowing when and where congestion will build can help drivers avoid the stress of sitting in traffic. Our advice is to avoid driving during peak hours or use alternative routes.

Based on insights from INRIX, Friday, May 26 will be the busiest day on the roads. The absolute worst time to travel on Friday will be between 3 and 6 pm. The best time to travel on Friday will be before 12 pm. On Saturday and Sunday, traffic is expected to be minimally impacted. You can view the best times to travel for the days between May 25 and May 30 below.

A chart showing the best and worst times to travel during Memorial Day Weekend.
Courtesy of AAA

Traffic will be much lighter on Saturday and Sunday, but if you're in a major metro area like Boston, New York, Seattle, or Tampa, expect travel times to double. Here is a look at the best and worst times to travel, as specified by each metro area.

A chart showing when traffic will be worst in different major US cities.
Courtesy of AAA

Air travel is also expected to surge during the upcoming holiday weekend. According to AAA, almost 3.4 million people are expected to fly over Memorial Day weekend, an increase of 11% over last year, as well as an increase over pre-pandemic 2019 numbers. It's expected to be the busiest Memorial Day weekend airports have seen since 2005.

If you are looking at all these numbers and feeling trepidation about making some late minute plans don’t feel too overwhelmed. Laura Lindsay, Skyscanner's travel and destination expert, says that you might be able to make the big travel weekend work in your favor for a last minute trip, even if that trip involves a flight as opposed to a drive.

"People might be thinking it's too late now. It's absolutely not too late. In theory, you can book a flight the same day," Lindsay said in an interview with Thrillist. "As long as you've got time to get to the airport and get checked in before the two hour window, you can book a flight four hours before it departs, if you want to. There's no rule against that."

A chart showing the predicted travel trends for Memorial Day Weekend 2023.
Courtesy of AAA

With the late minute planning, you'll just need to be flexible on where you are planning to go.

"Let's say you haven't booked anything yet and you want to go away for Memorial Day weekend, something like Vegas to San Diego, that's got a $77 return flight still for Memorial Day weekend. Orlando to Wilmington, $57 return for Memorial Day weekend," Lindsay explained. "So, one of the things that's interesting about peak travel moments, is that a lot of people are restricted by having to go to a particular location because of a particular person or commitment."

If you simply want to get out of town, you can likely still find some good deals on flights and hotels for the holiday weekend. If you plan on driving, just make sure you heed the advice from AAA, and also avoid those peak times on the road.

Looking for more travel tips?

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Opheli Garcia Lawler is a Staff Writer on the News team at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @opheligarcia and Instagram @opheligarcia.