Iowans Can Expect Crowded Highways and Airports for the Holiday Weekend

(Radio Iowa) Summer doesn’t officially arrive until June 21st, but for most Iowans, the holiday weekend ahead is the real start of the season. Meredith Mitts, at Triple-A Iowa, says the motor club is predicting more than 37 million Americans will be taking trips over the next several days to celebrate Memorial Day.

“That makes this the third-busiest Memorial Day weekend that we’ve had since we started tracking in about 2000,” Mitts says. “This is about 11% higher than what we saw last year, but it still brings us just under those pre-pandemic numbers. In 2019, we had 42.8 million travelers. This year, we’re only anticipating 42.3 million.” Gasoline prices are holding steady nationwide, but pump prices have risen in Iowa in recent weeks. The statewide average is now three-43 a gallon, though that’s low compared to the statewide average a year ago at four-22.

“Some of the reasons we might be seeing those higher prices in Iowa specifically is more people are finally starting to travel,” Mitts says. “The weather’s turning nicer, the growing season, the planting season that’s happening right now. There’s lots of big vehicles out there that are using fuels.” Iowa’s average price for gas is 14 cents lower than the national average. Triple-A’s Nick Chabarria says whether it’s by car or by plane, Iowans are joining the throng in traveling again, as the figures are approaching pre-pandemic highs.

“I’m seeing travel tick up in really all aspects, airfare bookings, hotel bookings, even international trips are on the rise,” Chabarria says. “We’ve been seeing folks making up for lost time during the COVID years and we think that’s going to continue.” Chabarria says airfares have jumped 20 to 30 percent over this time last year, but he says you can still find last-minute deals. He says some of the most popular summer destinations are the beaches, the West Coast, Las Vegas, and national parks.