Arizona travel for Memorial Day expected to near record levels, AAA says

May 24, 2023, 9:25 AM | Updated: May 25, 2023, 7:21 am

Stock photo of airplanes lining up at Sky Harbor Airport as travelers prepare for Memorial Day comm...

(Sky Harbor International Airport Photo)

(Sky Harbor International Airport Photo)

PHOENIX — As travelers in Arizona prepare for the holiday weekend, officials are advising to plan ahead and for extra time as travel is expected to be among the busiest ever recorded.

Nearly 890,000 Arizonans are expected to drive or fly during the holiday, a 7% increase from last year, AAA said.

For travelers hitting the roads, experts are advising drivers to plan their trip to avoid peak travel hours of 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. if possible.

“It really starts with expecting the unexpected. You need to plan your travel out as if something could go wrong. That way you’re prepared,” Doug Nintzel, an Arizona Department of Transportation spokesman, told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Tuesday.

“It includes that you could have car trouble out there, including a flat tire, or an unscheduled closure happens along the highway and has you waiting things out. You need to have the things in your vehicle that will help you in those instances.”

Among some of the items Nintzel said drivers can pack are a flashlight, umbrella, bottled water and extra batteries.

“Even though we’re not going to have any closures on Valley freeways or around the state, ADOT still wants you to know to slow down in existing work zones, including along Interstate 10 near Sky Harbor Airport or even on Interstate 17 with the big project now taking place north of Anthem,” Nintzel said.

“The biggest recommendation probably would be extra travel time and even try to get an early start or delay travel until later in the evening when traffic volumes have curtailed.”

While driving is the primary method of travel, air travel is estimated to exceed the Memorial Day record from 2019 by 5.4% — or 170,000 more passengers — nationwide. Overall, travel for the holiday is projected to reach 99% of pre-pandemic levels this weekend.

“This is expected to be the third busiest Memorial Day weekend since 2000, when AAA started tracking holiday travel,” Paula Twidale, senior vice president of AAA travel, said in a press release.

“More Americans are planning trips and booking them earlier, despite inflation. This summer travel season could be one for the record books, especially at airports.”

Phoenix’s Sky Harbor Airport advised travelers to plan ahead for parking, know what can and can’t go in checked bags, plan for extra travel time and to use the Phoenix Reserve program to reduce time in the security checkpoint line.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s John Roller contributed to this story. 

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Arizona travel for Memorial Day expected to near record levels, AAA says