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Travel experts see slow commutes and long lines this Memorial Day weekend

It’s not too late to plan, but you need to do some homework in order to avoid hassles and lost time

Photo (c) ssucsy - Getty Images
Memorial Day weekend will be here before you know it, and if you’re hitting the highways or the skyways, you won’t be alone. The American Automobile Association (AAA) expects trip-takers will have a near record-breaking 43 million others traveling right beside them, elbowing for space.

With gas prices continuing to drop, the majority of holiday travelers will stick to driving. While driving may seem like less of a hassle than air travel, travel delays are expected to be three times longer than the average rush hour. In other words, as a AAA spokesperson told ConsumerAffairs: “Pack your patience.”

“Our advice to drivers is to avoid the morning and evening commuting times or plan alternate routes,” said Trevor Reed, transportation analyst, INRIX. INRIX also suggests that travelers living in a major metropolis, such as New York City or Washington, D.C., get an extra head start because the added congestion could double or even triple the normal rush hour traffic.

Here’s a list of those metros, the worst days and hours to travel from those areas, and the predicted delay:

Metro Area

Worst Day for Travel

Worst Time for Travel

Delay Multiplier of Normal Trip


Thursday, May 23

4:30 – 6:30 PM



Monday, May 27

3:45 – 5:45 PM



Friday, May 24

3:30 – 5:30 PM



Friday, May 24

2:30 – 4:30 PM



Sunday, May 26

2:15 – 4:15 PM


Los Angeles

Friday, May 24

4:30 – 6:30 PM


New York

Thursday, May 23

4:45 – 6:45 PM


San Francisco

Saturday, May 25

1:00 – 3:00 PM



Monday, May 27

3:30 – 5:30 PM


Washington, D.C.

Monday, May 27

3:45 – 5:45 PM


Up, up, and away?

AAA projects a 4.8 percent -- or 3.2 million people -- increase in Americans choosing to fly over Memorial Day weekend.

With reduction in security officers at airports, and more families traveling than single persons, the process of getting through the airport and onto the plane is going to be at a snail’s pace.

Statistics from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics and compiled by The Washington Post pegged the airports with the longest delays over this holiday weekend.

The Top 10 are:

  1. New York (JFK) — average delays of 62.6 minutes

  2. New York (LGA) — 61.5 minutes

  3. Philadelphia (PHL) — 56.7 minutes

  4. Washington, D.C. (IAD) — 54 minutes

  5. Fort Lauderdale (FLL) — 53.5 minutes

  6. Cincinnati (CVG) — 52.1 minutes

  7. Denver (DEN) — 51.8 minutes

  8. Washington, D.C. (DCA) — 51.6 minutes

  9. Baltimore (BWI) — 51.5 minutes

  10. Austin (AUS) — 51.2 minutes

On the flip side, the airports with the shortest average delays are:

  1. Seattle (SEA) — average delays of 31.7 minutes

  2. Portland (PDX) — 32.8 minutes

  3. Oakland (OAK) — 33 minutes

  4. Atlanta (ATL) — 33.1 minutes

  5. Pittsburgh (PIT) — 34.7 minutes

If you’re renting a car at the airport, your patience will get tested even further.

Hertz reported that the busiest airport pick-up locations for travelers renting a car this Memorial Day are predicted to be Orlando (MCO), Los Angeles (LAX), Denver (DEN), Las Vegas (LAS), and San Francisco (SFO). Friday, May 24, is expected to be the busiest day for rental pick-ups.

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