ORLANDO, Fla. - AAA predicts 39.2 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more away from home over the Memorial Day weekend, otherwise known as the unofficial start of summer.
The agency said its estimate is an 8.3% increase compared to 2021, with the latest numbers closely aligning with those from 2017.
Air travel continues to rebound, increasing 25% over the last year, according to the agency. Three million people are expected to fly over the holiday, a number just shy of the 2019 data.
"Memorial Day is always a good predictor of what’s to come for summer travel," Paula Twidale, senior vice president, AAA Travel said in a news release. "Based on our projections, summer travel isn’t just heating up, it will be on fire. People are overdue for a vacation and they are looking to catch up on some much-needed R&R in the coming months."
"Air travel has faced several challenges since the beginning of the year," continued Twidale. "With the type of volume we anticipate, we continue to recommend the safety net of a travel agent and travel insurance. Both are a lifesaver if something unexpectedly derails your travel plans."
While air travel demand continues to soar, a growing pilot shortage will force airlines to ground flights during one of the busiest travel seasons of the year.
Since 2019, airlines have seen a 4% decline in pilot numbers. Major airlines like JetBlue and Spirit have already cut 5% to 10% of their summer schedules to focus on recruiting as the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports 14,500 pilots need to be hired every year for the next decade in order to keep up with the shortage.
AAA offers tips for travelers to reduce their stress such as being flexible with dates and plan early, including booking your rental car as quickly as possible. Experts warn Americans could see the same rental car challenges as last year— high prices and a short supply.
"It was expected that there would be relief this year, however, acquiring new vehicles has proven challenging which has translated to rates that are far above average for a typical spring/summer season," Jonathan Weinberg, founder and CEO of AutoSlash.com told FOX Television Stations.
Rising gas prices may also make some traveling difficult. Nationally, average prices for a gallon of gas fell to as low as $4.10 in April, according to AAA, after having spiked to $4.32 in March. But since then, gas prices have surged to a record $4.40 a gallon.
FOX 5 DC contributed to this report. This story was reported from Los Angeles.