When is Memorial Day traffic the worst? AAA shares best times to drive

FILE - Traffic on 93 looking North toward Boston ahead of the Memorial Day Weekend in Boston on May 28, 2021. (Photo by Suzanne Kreiter/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Nearly 44 million travelers are expected to travel over Memorial Day weekend, a 4% increase over last year, according to AAA. 

AAA said the estimated number includes those heading at least 50 miles or more from home between May 23 and May 27, 2024. The 2024 estimation comes close to matching 2005’s record of 44 million Memorial Day travelers, according to the motor club association.  

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"We haven’t seen Memorial Day weekend travel numbers like these in almost 20 years," Paula Twidale, senior vice president of AAA Travel, said in a statement. 

"We’re projecting an additional one million travelers this holiday weekend compared to 2019, which not only means we’re exceeding pre-pandemic levels but also signals a very busy summer travel season ahead," Twidale added.

Specifically by car, AAA projects 38.4 million people will hit the road – which is the highest number for that holiday since AAA began tracking in 2000. 

AAA car rental partner Hertz said Orlando, Denver, Atlanta, Boston and Las Vegas are the cities displaying the highest rental demand, with the busiest pick-up days projected to be Thursday and Friday.

When is Memorial Day traffic the worst? 

Drivers leaving on Thursday or Friday should hit the road early to avoid mixing with commuters, according to AAA, citing transportation data firm INRIX. Travelers returning home on Sunday or Monday should avoid the afternoon hours when return trips will peak. 

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"Travel times are expected to be up to 90% longer than normal," Bob Pishue, transportation analyst at INRIX, said in a statement. "Travelers should stay up to date on traffic apps, 511 services, and local news stations to avoid sitting in traffic longer than necessary." 

The worst times to drive, according to AAA: 

  • Thursday, May 23 – Between 12 p.m. and 6 p.m.
  • Friday, May 24 – Between 12 p.m. and 7 p.m.
  • Saturday, May 25 – Between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m.
  • Sunday, May 26 – Between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m.
  • Monday, May 27 – Between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m.

Best times to drive over Memorial Day weekend 2024

Those planning to drive over Memorial Day weekend should take note of the best times to hit the road, according to AAA.

  • Thursday, May 23 – Leave before 11 a.m., or after 7 p.m.
  • Friday, May 24 – Leave before 11 a.m., or after 8 p.m.
  • Saturday, May 25 – Leave before 1 p.m., or after 6 p.m.
  • Sunday, May 26 – Leave before 1 p.m.
  • Monday, May 27 – Leave after 7 p.m.

This story was reported from Cincinnati.