Millions of travelers are expected to hit roads across the country Memorial Day weekend with numbers nearing pre-pandemic levels.
After two years of pandemic-related travel restrictions, many have been looking for any reason to take a trip out of town, and Memorial Day is as good an excuse as any to make a weekend getaway.
The Interstate 15 corridor between Las Vegas and Los Angeles sees an estimated daily average of 45,000 vehicles, according to the Nevada State Police.
Even more are expected during the Memorial Day weekend, which the State Police noted is one of the busiest travel periods of the year.
This year AAA expects 39.2 million people nationwide to travel for Memorial Day weekend. That’s a 3 million person increase over 2021. Of those, 34.9 million will make the trip via automobile.
Both totals are nearing pre-pandemic levels. In 2019, AAA estimated 43 million Americans would travel for the Memorial Day weekend with the vast majority — 37.6 million — traveling by car.
“Memorial Day is always a strong predictor of what’s to come for summer travel,” said Rolando Flores, senior vice president of membership and travel for AAA Nevada in a statement. “Based on our projections, travel isn’t just picking up speed, it’s taking off.”
Higher prices not a deterrent
Those rosy travel predictions come even as gas prices are sky-high and inflation has led to goods being more costly than this time last year.
The average price of regular unleaded gas in the Las Vegas Valley is $5.19 per gallon, as of Sunday. That is a 3-cent increase over last week and a $1.57 increase over Memorial Day weekend 2021.
GasBuddy lead petroleum analyst Patrick DeHaan said he expects that price to continue to rise as the summer months approach.
“I think we’ll see prices inching up ahead of Memorial Day, and we may not see a peak in prices until July (when demand peaks) or unless there’s some dramatic turnaround with Russia’s war on Ukraine,” DeHaan said in an email. “I don’t foresee sub $5/gallon happening (in Las Vegas) this summer, barring a dramatic turnaround or economic slowdown, unfortunately.”
AAA Nevada urges those who are planning to take a trip this Memorial Day weekend or beyond this summer to plan ahead to ensure their travels are safe and enjoyable.
■ Avoid the rush. For those driving to their destination, Thursday and Friday are expected to be the busiest days on the roads. Thursday will be the busiest day for air travel during the Memorial Day travel period, Thursday-May 30. Monday is expected to be the least busy over the long weekend.
■ Book summer travel early to ensure you score the best rate and receive any discounts offered for prepaying. Prices are already increasing because of higher demand, which in turn makes finding last-minute deals more difficult.
■ Ensure your vehicle is ready to make a trip out of town. Motorists should have their battery, fuel system, tires, brakes, and fluid levels checked by a trusted mechanic.
■ Make sure to pack everything needed for a trip. Nothing is worse than arriving at your destination only to realize essential items were left behind. Double-check your luggage before heading out to avoid unnecessary expense by having to replace forgotten items.
To ensure those driving between Southern Nevada and Southern California do so safely, a multi-agency traffic enforcement effort will be in place this week.
A combined enforcement will start Friday on I-15, looking for speeders, distracted drivers, seat belts usage and those using the shoulder to pass traffic.
That enforcement will expand next Monday to include the U.S. Highway 95 corridor with I-15 as revelers head home.
There will also be additional speed enforcement patrols on U.S. 95 south of Boulder City and Nipton Road — Nevada state Route 164 — between Searchlight and I-15.
The California Highway Patrol also will ramp up its efforts on the California side of I-15 and Nipton Road. That includes the use of fix-winged aircraft that measure vehicles’ speed from the air.