Pack your patience: The busiest air, road travel times for this weekend

Travelers, prepare yourselves for an incredibly busy Memorial Day weekend.

This year, the peak travel weekend is going to be a hectic one, according to travel app Hopper’s latest report. AAA also said it will be the “third busiest Memorial Day weekend” in over two decades.

Most people will travel by plane. U.S. Airports are expected to be packed between Thursday and Monday. This year’s Memorial Day weekend is seeing a 17% increase in seat capacity from last year’s.

“We’re seeing strong demand for MDW with nearly 17 million passengers scheduled to depart from U.S airports this coming weekend,” Hayley Berg, lead economist at Hopper, told USA TODAY in an email. “Demand remains high for summer, particularly for international travel, as many popular destinations were still closed for tourism this time last year.”.

Road trip planner:Getting to your destination by car could be cheaper than flying.

More:Memorial Day weekend travel may be busier than last year. Here’s what to know.

Many travelers are hoping to fly internationally this holiday weekend or extend their travels into Tuesday for an even longer trip, the Hopper report said. Low last minute domestic airfare also adds to the mix.

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Unfortunately, the weekend is just setting the tone for an equally chaotic summer of traveling.

“Expect long lines and potential disruptions over this first peak summer weekend as airlines and airports work to manage schedules as we head into the busiest time of the year for travel,” Berg added.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a press briefing Tuesday that airlines’ on-time performance has improved in the last few months.

In the first three months of 2023, cancellations were below 2%, lower than last year’s cancellation rate of 2.7%, according to the Department of Transportation.

“And so far, this May, we’re seeing those numbers hold,” Buttigieg said. “But this weekend will be a test of the system.”.

When will airports be the busiest this weekend?

There are three days out of this weekend where you should expect long lines at airport security and possible disruptions. Most airports will be busy during the morning or early evenings.

Most travelers are going to depart for their weekend trips on Thursday and Friday. The latter is slated to be the busiest travel day, with over 3.5 million airplane seats expected to be filled by passengers.

People are expected to return home Memorial Day on Monday, so anticipate crowds at the airport.

Which airports are going to be busiest this Memorial Day weekend?

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is expected to be the most crowded airport this weekend, especially during the morning, according to Hopper analysts. Over 1.1 million passengers will be departing from this hub, the report said.

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Other crowded airports include: Dallas Fort Worth International Airport, Denver International Airport and Los Angeles International Airport, all slated to see around 700,000 departing passengers.

“If there’s an issue, we have your back,” Buttigieg said, adding that passengers can always check the online DOT Dashboard on flightrights.Gov.

When will the roads be busiest this weekend?

To avoid crowded airports and save money, many travelers will hit the roads. About 37.1 million U.S. Travelers are going on a road trip for Memorial Day weekend, about 6% more than last year. Drivers should prepare for rush hour traffic-induced delays, especially around major metropolitan areas.

“Gas prices are lower this holiday compared to last year, when the national average was more than $4 a gallon,” AAA said. “Despite the lower prices at the pump, car travel this holiday will be shy of pre-pandemic numbers by about 500,000 travelers.”.

Like the airports, roads are going to be most crowded on Friday afternoon as people set off for their destination. Transportation analytics firm INRIX said the best time to travel by car is on Thursday and Friday before 1 p.M. And noon, respectively. If you can, consider even traveling on Saturday or Sunday for the lightest traffic.

When heading home, aim for Monday morning before 10 a.M. Once it hits noon and 3 p.M., Traffic will pick up. “Knowing when and where congestion will build can help drivers avoid the stress of sitting in traffic,” INRIX transportation analyst Bob Pishue said in a statement. “Our advice is to avoid driving during peak hours or use alternative routes.”.

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Kathleen Wong is a travel reporter for USA TODAY based in Hawaii. You can reach her at [email protected].

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