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How Bad Will Traffic Be This Memorial Day Weekend? (Very Bad)

A warning to road-trippers.

More than 43 million people are traveling this Memorial Day weekend, according to the American Automobile Association (AAA)—the second busiest Memorial Day forecast since the organization began tracking in 2000. And AAA expects 38.4 million people will be hitting the road to kick start their summer holidays—a rise of 4% from last year. So, how bad will things get this weekend for road-tripper? Read on to find out.

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The Best Times to Hit the Road

If you don’t want to crawl into your holiday with millions of others, you need to schedule your driving time correctly. INRIX, a transportation data and analytics provider, said that driving times are expected to be up to 90% longer than normal. It recommends leaving early to avoid peak times on May 23 (Thursday) and May 24 (Friday); either start before 11 a.m. or leave after 7 p.m. on Thursday or 8 p.m. on Friday. The busiest time to be on the road is after 11 a.m., so the early bird will get to its destination fastest. 

On Saturday, May 25, between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. will be the worst for drivers, and on Sunday, May 26, and Monday, May 27, 3 p.m.-7 p.m. are the no-go hours. Start early on Sunday before 1 p.m. to beat the traffic and on Monday, you should hit the roads after 7 p.m. to avoid congestion.

Routes to Avoid

Some routes are so traffic prone, it’s best to avoid them altogether–so take note if you’re planning on driving either of these:

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– From Los Angeles to Bakersfield, don’t take the I-5 N on Thursday after 6 p.m. There is an 84% increase in travel time, which will make your journey 2 hours and 45 minutes long.

– From Gainesville to Tampa, the I-75 S is likely to be jammed on Sunday at 9 a.m.; the journey might take 3 hours and 47 minutes.

Bob Pishue, INRIX’s transportation analyst, also suggested using traffic apps, local news stations, and 511 services to stay updated on traffic. 

According to car rental company Hertz, rental demands are peaking in Las Vegas, Boston, Denver, Orlando, and Atlanta. Thursday and Friday are the busiest pick-ups, so if you are renting a car this time, make sure to keep in mind that rentals may also be packed.

Busier Skies

Fliers will also give the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and airlines a heavy load of work this month. Last year, the TSA screened 12.4 million people during the Memorial Day weekend–a record-breaking number. This summer is likely to be even busier.

Airlines have their own projections for the weekend. Delta is preparing for 3 million travelers to pass through its gates over the five-day period. Meanwhile, United will bring more than half a million passengers to their destinations each day of this five-day stretch, making it the busiest Memorial Day weekend for them.

The most popular domestic destinations this year are Orlando, Seattle, New York, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles. American travelers are in pursuit of theme parks, entertainment, and cruises, so you’ll be pushing your way through a throng no matter your mode of transportation.

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