CLARKSBURG, W.Va – For some, Memorial Day is the start of the summer season. But, last year, due to the pandemic, not many people traveled.
This year, experts are predicting more people will head to their favorite vacation spots for the long weekend, since restrictions are easing. That means a greater possibility of airport crowds and bumper-to-bumper traffic.
“We’re seeing that number go up for people deciding to travel because confidence, they have more confidence in their ability to travel safely,” Lynda Lambert, AAA East Central media spokesperson and safety advisor, said. “As more and more people get vaccinated, those numbers are likely to climb.”
In West Virginia and surrounding areas, AAA is expecting 6.6 million auto travelers and more than 500,000 air travelers this holiday. That’s a 52% increase for auto travelers and a 579% increase for air travelers compared to last year.
Last year, traffic totals were the lowest AAA has ever recorded. But this year, drivers should expect traffic congestion to be back to pre-pandemic levels. Experts said air travel will be continuously busy all weekend, and the worst times for drivers would be Thursday and Friday evenings. Lambert also recommends drivers stay later to beat the traffic when coming back from vacation.
“You want to hit the road early on Thursday or early on Friday and avoid the typical rush-hour times in the afternoons,” Lambert said. “If you can stay an extra day and not leave until Tuesday, go for it because traffic will be lighter Monday. It will just be busy, probably all day.”
AAA also said that Memorial Day drivers will pay the highest gas prices since 2014. This week’s average prices are expected to be around $2.97, which is more than a dollar higher than last year.