Memorial Day weekend is one of the busiest travel weekends of the year. In 2017, the automotive group AAA estimated that 40 million Americans would travel 50 miles or more on Memorial Day weekend. Those estimates also projected that 34.6 million vehicles would be used to make those trips.
Often referred to as “the unofficial beginning of summer,” Memorial Day and the weekend that precedes it has become synonymous with beach trips and backyard barbecues. Travelers who want to avoid traffic jams and ensure their weekends get off on the right foot can benefit from employing these three travel-savvy strategies.
1. Start the weekend early.
In its “State of American Vacation 2017” survey, Project: Time Off found that 662 million vacation days were unused in 2016. People traveling for Memorial Day who typically leave some vacation days on the table can start their weekends early this year. Many offices close early the Friday before Memorial Day, and workers who aren’t so lucky may just leave work early, meaning Friday afternoon traffic figures to be heavy. By leaving Thursday afternoon or evening, travelers can avoid the Friday rush to the beach.
2. Take public transportation.
Travelers who can’t take an extra day off or leave work early the Friday before Memorial Day may want to consider taking public transportation to their beach destinations instead of driving themselves. In 2016, the U.S.-based data firm Inrix noted that a traffic-free Friday jaunt from New York City to Long Island’s East end would take 90 minutes, while the same trip would take three hours and 40 minutes on the Friday of Memorial Day weekend. Travelers who can’t leave early can save themselves from the stress of holiday traffic jams by letting someone else do the navigating.
3. Be patient and depart on Saturday morning.
Travelers who can be patient may find that waiting to depart for their destinations until Saturday can save them from dealing with much of the stress of traveling on Memorial Day weekend. The benefits of being patient may depend on where travelers live, as the Inrix study noted that Friday was the busiest day to leave Los Angeles on Memorial Day weekend, while San Diego residents tended to deal with the most traffic on Saturday. An added benefit of waiting until Saturday is the likelihood that such travelers will not return home until Tuesday, avoiding traffic on Monday, which tends to be the busiest return travel day of the weekend.
Memorial Day weekend travel tends to be hectic. But savvy travelers with some flexibility can take steps to make their trips less stressful.