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Memorial Day travel expected to spike; 3rd highest since 2000

Dan Mohler, of Mars, pumps gas Thursday, May 25, at the Sheetz gas station along Route 228 in Adams Township. Shane Potter/Butler Eagle
On the Road Again
Forecast great for holiday weekend

The unofficial start of summer is here and more Americans are eager to get away from home to enjoy some time in the sun away from the hustle and bustle of work life.

Memorial Day holiday travel is expected to rise 7% compared to last year, as 42.3 million travelers are expected to hit the road and air this coming weekend according to AAA.

“That’s the third highest on record,” said Jim Garrity, AAA spokesperson. “It's just shy of pre-pandemic as a whole. At airports, it is defiantly higher than pre-pandemic.”

The 42.3 million travelers is the third highest figure for Memorial Day holiday travel since 2000, with 44 million in 2005 and 42.8 in 2019.

That will come to 2.7 million more travelers looking to get in on the holiday fun compared to 2022.

Car travel will rise by 6% to 37.1 million travelers, while 3.39 million travelers are expected to take to the skies during the holiday.

“It's a continuation of all the enthusiasm we are hearing about travel,” Garrity said. “Last year we saw more people traveling in the previous year for Memorial Day. People seem ready to get back out there.”

Travel by other modes of transportation such as bus or train is expected to also grow by more than 20% compared to last year to 1.85 million.

The 2023 Memorial Day holiday is defined by AAA as Thursday, May 25, through Monday, May 29.

This spike in travel has been consistent since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw 23.1 million travelers during the 2020 Memorial Day holiday weekend, 36.2 million in 2021 and 39.6 million in 2022 according to AAA.

“I think right now people are more interested in bigger trips,” Garrity said. “More so bucket list trips. People said to themselves pre-pandemic maybe one day, but now they are saying what about today.”

According to new data from the Energy Information Administration, gas demand declined from 9.3 million barrels of oil per day to 8.9 million barrels during the first week of May, but Garrity does not think that trend is going to stick around for very long.

“You really see a big increase right about now,” Garrity said. “This is the unofficial start of summer travel. It's also teenagers getting out of school and driving around. There’s something about putting your hand out the window when you’re driving down the road.”

Price at the pump

The national average price for a gallon of regular gasoline came to $3.57 as of May 25, according to AAA.

In the state of Pennsylvania, the average price for a gallon of regular gasoline came to $3.67, while the average in Butler County came to $3.71.

This time last year, the average price for a gallon of regular gasoline was $4.77.

Butler resident Erik Lenyk said even though he is not traveling for a vacation this coming holiday weekend, he will be traveling around to baseball games for his children.

He did explain his game plan though when it comes to saving money at the pump when he can.

“If I'm closer to Sam’s Club I’ll go there,” Lenyk said. “Since I’m a member there, I’ll go there to get gas at a discount. I’m not changing my travel plans due to gas prices, but I do go to Sam’s Club more frequently than I did in the past.”

Charlotte Barton, of Valencia, said she will be traveling to Uniontown, Pa., this weekend, which is where she is originally from to visit some family.

She said she does not do too much traveling other than routine trips to the grocery store, but when it comes to leisure travel, the high prices at the pump will not deter her from going.

“If I really want to go, I will,” Barton said.

Sunny skies

According to Lee Hendricks, a meteorologist with U.S. National Weather Service in Pittsburgh, Butler County residents and those traveling into the county do not have much to worry about weather-wise heading into the holiday weekend.

“The weather is actually looking pretty nice,” Hendricks said. “Friday we are looking at sunny with highs in the low 70s. It might get a little cool Friday night in the mid 40s. Then sunny with highs in the high 70s for Saturday.”

Sunday looks like partly cloudy in the mid 70s and for Memorial Day highs will reach the low 80s.

A combination of cooler air and clear skies will allow for abnormally cool temperatures heading into Friday morning and for Friday night, but that isn’t something people should worry too much about, Hendricks said.

“I don't think we are going to have any issues this weekend except for Jefferson County and Forrest County on Friday morning,” Hendricks said. “Then things should warm up enough over the weekend.”

Signs advertise gas prices at the Sheetz gas station along Route 228 in Adams Township on Thursday, May 25. According to AAA, the average price in Butler County came to $3.71 a gallon. Shane Potter/Butler Eagle
Nick DiGeronimo, of Shaler, pumps gas Thursday, May 25, at the Sheetz gas station along Route 228 in Adams Township. Shane Potter/Butler Eagle

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