Memorial Day travel comeback

Updated: May 31, 2021

Memorial Day weekend commences the beginning of summer travel across the nation.

By Marcos Franco, News Editor

Traffic on the 110 S going into Downtown Los Angeles on Memorial Day weekend. Sunday, May 30, 2021. Los Angeles, Calif. (Photo by Stephen Castaneda /The Valley Star)

Travel returns for Southern Californians heading into the Memorial Day weeked, following loosened restrictions across the state, as tourists load their luggage for outdoor excursions.

According to a report from the Auto Club, travel is expected to make a roaring return for Memorial Day weekend, with 2.89 million Southern Californians projected to get away over the three-day holiday. This number is a 64 percent increase from last year’s 1.7 million travelers, which was the lowest recorded travel statistic since AAA began tracking holiday numbers in 2000 and a 49 percent decrease from 2019. Nearly 90 percent of travelers are expected to drive to their destination, which may suggest a return to the Los Angeles tradition of gridlock among a sea of brake lights.

“These holiday getaway numbers are very encouraging, and we expect travel to continue to strengthen once cruising and other options reopen,” said Auto Club Vice President for Travel Filomena Andre in a statement.

Although freeway congestion is typical in Los Angeles, AAA expects Interstate 5, 405 and 10 to bear the most traffic over the holiday weekend.

This year, Southern Californian tourists are taking an outdoor approach to Memorial Day as Zion and Bryce Canyon National Park — both located in Utah — take the No. 1 travel spot over Las Vegas, according to the LA Times. While the drive is a bit further than the city of sin, the change may be a result of wanting a more natural and zen environment.

“People want to have a little more control of their environment, and they can be outdoor in these national parks,” said Auto Club spokesperson Jeffery Spring to the Times.

Before the pandemic, Los Angeles brought in $36.6 billion in revenue annually from tourism. Due to extensive restrictions and business closures last year, the county lost out on a projected $13 billion in 2020, according to the LA Times. Los Angeles Tourism Officials expect a full recovery to take up to three and a half years, but are hopeful that the upcoming months will help cut the county’s economic deficit.

“There is pent-up demand for travel. More than two-thirds of Americans say they plan on traveling this summer,” said Doane Liu to the Times, executive director of the LA Department of Convention and Tourism Development.

According to NBCLA, California is the state with the most expensive gas prices in the country, with average prices being $4 per gallon in Los Angeles and up to $6 at some locations in downtown LA. Despite rising prices, the current cost per gallon is comparable to the Memorial Day weekend of 2019.

Statewide, The Auto Club expects to provide roadside assistance to more than 115,000 California motorists over the three-day weekend. Since most vehicles were not used as frequently during the pandemic and owners may not have kept up with scheduled maintenance, AAA encourages drivers to have their vehicle inspected before hitting the road.