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AAA forecasts summer travel surge at near pre-pandemic levels

Travel numbers will be similar to 2017
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Posted at 8:56 AM, May 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-18 09:56:41-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Tennesseans are ready to hit the road again for summer break, according to a recent survey from AAA.

"Tennesseans are the most comfortable that they have been with traveling since the pandemic began," said AAA Tennessee spokesperson Megan Cooper. "So we're seeing a lot of pent-up demand and we're really expecting that to be unleashed this summer."

More than 803,000 Tennesseans are expected to travel 50 miles or more between Thursday and Monday of Memorial Day weekend. Known as the unofficial start to summer, Memorial Day weekend forecasted travel numbers are similar to 2017, and a 7.4% increase from last year.

But AAA notes they are still 7.6% below the record numbers from 2019.

AAA reports almost 90% of travelers will drive, despite record gas prices expected for the holiday.

The past record gas price average was $3.82, recorded on Memorial Day weekend in 2008. One week before the holiday begins, prices are currently averaging $4.20.

Staff believe travelers will save money in other ways, like going shorter distances and staying at less expensive hotels. Eating out less and spending time at free or cheaper attractions are other strategies people said they will utilize to make up for higher prices at the pump.

As you make your travel plans, AAA says you'll want to avoid the busiest times on the road if possible.

"What we're expecting is the Thursday and Friday leading into the weekend are going to be some of the busiest times," Cooper explained. "That is really because we have different kinds of travel merging together. You have the afternoon commuters mixing with people who are leaving town for the weekend."

Worst times to travel Memorial Day weekend:
Thursday 1 p.m. - 8 p.m.
Friday 12 p.m. - 7 p.m.
Monday 1 p.m. - 4 p.m.

Avoiding heavy traffic can save you time but also money because idling wastes gas.

Best times to travel Memorial Day weekend:

Saturday & Sunday
Thursday before 6 a.m. or after 9 p.m.
Friday before 7 a.m. or after 9 p.m.
Monday before 11 a.m.

AAA recommends booking your travel soon if you haven't finalized your plans yet. And be sure to check flights to your destination. They may be cheaper than driving this year. Calculate your estimated gas costs with the AAA gas cost calculator here.