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AAA’s 2023 Memorial Day travel forecast predicts Wisconsinites will embark on journeys in near record-breaking numbers this Memorial Day weekend. The forecast indicates that over 800,000 residents of Wisconsin will travel 50 miles or more, marking a 6.7% increase from last year and falling just 3% short of the all-time high in 2019.

Both auto and air travel categories in Wisconsin are anticipated to approach record highs. Approximately 720,000 Wisconsinites are expected to travel by car, almost 40,000 more than the previous year. Meanwhile, air travel is projected to see 42,000 passengers, a significant increase of 4,200 individuals compared to last year’s holiday.

Summer travel in Wisconsin expected to surge

Debbie Haas, Vice President of Travel for AAA – The Auto Club Group, expressed her thoughts on the upcoming Memorial Day weekend.

“Memorial Day weekend is the kickoff to what promises to be a hectic summer travel season,” she said. “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 Wisconsin.”

Here are the expected holiday travel volumes for Wisconsin:

  • Total: 801,560
  • Auto: 719,878
  • Air: 42,213
  • Other: 39,470

Comparing these figures to previous years, in 2022, Wisconsin’s total number of travelers in Wisconsin was 750,790, with 679,931 traveling by car and 37,956 by air. In 2019, the figures reached 827,443 travelers, with 748,852 by car and 43,905 by air.

While Wisconsin’s holiday travel figures are set to reach record highs, national travel numbers still slightly lag behind pre-pandemic levels. AAA estimates that 42.3 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home this Memorial Day weekend, representing a 7% increase compared to last year. However, this falls short of the reported figures of 42.8 million in 2019 and 44 million in 2005.

Prices for air travel on the rise

Wisconsinites expected to travel in near-record numbers for Memorial Day weekend, according to AAA
STOCK IMAGE – Credit: Anna Dziubinska / Unsplash

Air travel is experiencing a surge in demand, despite higher ticket prices. AAA predicts the strongest air travel numbers since 2005, with nearly 3.4 million travelers expected to fly during the holiday weekend. This represents an 11% increase from last year and 5.4% more passengers than in 2019.

Travelers are paying more for Memorial Day trips this year, primarily due to the rising cost of airline tickets. AAA’s booking data reveals a 40% increase in airfares for this year’s top destinations.

Road trips ahead for many Americans

Auto travel remains the preferred mode of transportation for 88% of holiday travelers. Memorial Day road trips are projected to increase by 6% from last year, with an estimated 37.1 million Americans driving to their destinations. Although this is 2 million more than last year, it falls short of the 500,000 fewer travelers compared to 2019.

Gas prices have been experiencing a recent decline, but it is uncertain whether this downward trend will continue leading up to the summer season. However, it is unlikely that prices will reach anywhere near the average of $4.38 per gallon paid by holiday travelers last year.

Who’s traveling when and where

According to INRIX, a provider of transportation data and insights, Friday, May 26, will be the busiest day on the roads. 

INRIX suggests traveling during non-peak hours or utilizing alternative routes to avoid congestion. The lightest traffic days are expected to be Saturday and Sunday.

AAA’s booking data reveals increased demand for iconic cities, international vacation packages, and cruises with added amenities that provide value for the price. Orlando, New York City, and Las Vegas are the top domestic Memorial Day weekend destinations.

Other popular U.S. cities include Denver, Boston, Anaheim, and Canton, Ohio, home to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

For many, Memorial Day means getting out of the country

International travel is experiencing a surge, with bookings for this holiday weekend being 250% higher compared to 2022.

European cities, such as Rome, Paris, Dublin, London, Barcelona, and Athens, are particularly popular. International car rentals have also increased by over 80% from last year, and there has been a significant rise in sales for International Driving Permits.

Due to strong travel demand and pandemic-related backlogs, passport processing delays have occurred, resulting in an unprecedented number of applications for expedited passport and visa services with RushMyPassport.

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Denise Lockwood has an extensive background in traditional and non-traditional media. She has written for, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine and the Kenosha News.