Memorial Day Weekend Travels During COVID-19

People walking through city landscape with masks on and wearing red and blue shirts, as it is Memorial Day.

Travel During A Holiday Weekend

Memorial Day Weekend is a popular time for people to get out, travel, and enjoy being around the people and things they love. According to AAA, 43 million Americans traveled for Memorial Day Weekend last year, which is the second-highest travel volume on record. This year, in the midst of a pandemic, we expected a much different story.

We looked at travel across various modes throughout May and compared it with the average daily trip counts from January, as we did in our COVID-19 Effects on Transportation in the U.S. blog. With Memorial Day Weekend being one of the most popular weekends to travel, we were interested to see what travel would look like this year in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Here is what we discovered.

Memorial Day Travels Across All Modes of Transportation

Majority of transportation modes remained at an overall decrease in comparison with travel rates before the COVID-19 pandemic. Run, bike, and car trips were the only modes that saw an increase or normal rate of travel throughout the month of May and Memorial Day Weekend. Here is a brief overview of the insights that were observed broken down by travel mode.

Air: There was a 12% increase in travel by plane in the days leading up to the holiday weekend.

Bike: The highest increase in bike trips over Memorial Day Weekend was seen on Sunday May 24th at a 24.4% higher than average rate. Interestingly, it dropped more than 8% the following day – Memorial Day.

Bus: There were no significant findings for bus trips over the holiday weekend, it’s maintained the same average decrease range throughout the month of May.

Car: Car trips gradually increased throughout the month to the point of reaching a slightly higher than average travel rate on May 22nd. Car trips hit a peak increase of 3.6% on May 23rd, yet decreased the following day by almost 10%.

Run: Running continues to have a higher than average trip rate throughout the month of May.

Train: Similar to what we analyzed from bus trips, no significant insights were found for train trips over Memorial Day Weekend. They maintained the same average trip decrease throughout the month of May.

Walk: Walk trips continue to be at an overall decrease compared to the average rate before the COVID-19 pandemic. No significant trends were found for the month of May or Memorial Day Weekend.

Which states increased their travels the most?

We segmented by state the total trips taken from 5/22/20 through 5/25/20 and compared it with the total trips taken during the same time frame in April, 4/24/20 – 4/27/20. We found that the three states that had the biggest increase in travel over Memorial Day Weekend were Vermont, with a 75% increase in total trips, Rhode Island with a 73% increase, and New York with a 52% increase. The state that had the smallest increase in travel was Washington with a 14% increase over Memorial Day Weekend.

Travel is expected over a holiday weekend, but during a pandemic, it’s a little different. We are encouraged to minimize our travel while being safe. So although we are still traveling at a rate lower than we did before the pandemic, we are seeing a gradual increase as time goes on. As states lift more of their shelter-in-place restrictions and begin reopening businesses and restaurants, we expect to continue seeing increases in travel across the United States.