More than 41.5 million people traveled during the 2018 Memorial Day weekend, which is 4.8 percent more than the year prior, according to the AAA travel club. That's the most travelers since 2005 for the holiday weekend, but ever more are expected to travel this year.
In fact, according to a recent AAA travel survey, nearly 100 million Americans (or four in 10 U.S. adults) are planning to take a family vacation in 2019, slightly more than last year. Spring and summer road trips, including Memorial Day Weekend getaways, will top many of these families’ vacation plans.
In fact, two-thirds of all family travelers (68 percent) will embark on a summer getaway, and just under half (45 percent) are making plans to travel this spring. Moreover, many of them are planning to vacation the classic American way: regardless of the season, "the great American road trip" is a popular idea of a vacation for these traveling families, about half of whom (53 percent) are packing up their cars to do just that.
“The great American road trip is still one of the best ways for families to relax and reconnect with one another,” Stacey Barber, executive director, AAA Travel Information & Content, said in a statement. “To make the most of their vacations, AAA recommends families plan and research as far ahead as possible to avoid missing out on popular activities and fun.”
So where are they all headed?
Last year, the AAA travel club reported that the most popular trips included Alaska cruises beginning in both Seattle and Anchorage, as well as warm-weather destinations such as Hawaii, Las Vegas, Phoenix and Southern California. This year, the top five routes for summer travel, according to AAA member road trip routing data, include the following.
Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina, according to the AAA survey, will be the most popular trip on the east side of the country. Blue Ridge Parkway is a scenic route that was built in 1935 to create a transportation link between Shenandoah National Park and Great Smoky Mountains National Park; building was completed in 1983 and the winding road that snakes through the mountainous terrain has since become a well-trodden one among adventure aficiandos and outdoors enthusiasts alike.
Today, the parkway runs from Virginia all the way to Cherokee, North Carolina. On the Virigina side, the forested Shenandoah National Park boasts a dynamic network of trails, which includes a section of the long-distance Appalachian Trail. The picturesque park is full of wetlands, waterfalls and species upon species of birds — as well as the elusive black bear. Wildlife lovers, rejoice.
On the west coast, Northern California and the Southern Oregon Coast are two of the most anticipated spots for a weekend getaway this year. Most will drive between the two, beginning in California's Central Valley and meandering through the high-elevation forests up the Pacific coast. The route flanked by the ocean passes through small beach towns, mounting sand dunes and majestic redwood tree forests.
In California, the Big Sur is one of the most coveted vacation destinations. This stretch of California's coastline has been dubbed the "American Riviera" for good reason. Visitors spend their days at rare purple sand beaches like Pfeiffer State Beach and cruising down Highway One to check out untouchable views of the Santa Lucia Mountains.
In Oregon, visitors have the chance to visit Portland, a green, affordable and accessible city for those who love the outdoors (especially cyclists!). Visitors come to check out the more than 400 wineries within a 45-minutes' drive, dine in the vibrant food scene, drink craft beers at the many microbreweries and shop the quaint corner stores downtown.
All of Northern New England will be a hot spot for Memorial Day Weekend travelers in the Northeast. Many will road trip through the Berkshires of Massachusetts and the Green Mountains of Vermont, stopping in quaint country inns and barn houses along the way.
For those with extra time to hit some of New England's favorited cities, Boston and Burlington are high on many bucket lists. That's because Boston has it all — it's an affordable city and treasure trove of American history, where visitors can take walking tours to Faneuil Hall and the Old North Church, check out many museums and even walk the 2.5-mile Freedom Trail boasting an abundance of historic sites.
Meanwhile, Burlington is famous for its Burlington Farmer's Market teeming with farm-fresh produce and cheese, nationally renowned beers and cider. In fact, it’s been ranked among the top ten farmers’ markets in the country, attracting 300,000 shoppers each year. But, still, most people visit the city for the excellent hiking and kayaking in the warmer months. In fact, because Burlington sits in the northwestern corner of the state, along the eastern shore of Lake Champlain, it's a hotspot for those with lake houses to escape the mayhem of everyday life.
Over in the Midwest, the Black Hills of South Dakota are an isolated, scenic spot that'll attract many weekenders. Those who head here will wander through the Great Plains of North America and some of the country's best-known landmarks, such as Mount Rushmore, and the famous Black Elk Peak that rises to 7,244 feet (the range's highest summit), and historic mining towns that are nestled in the valleys replete with Ponderosa pine.
The Black Hills extend into Wyoming and encompass the Black Hills National Forest. There, in the north, the Spearfish Canyon gorge is full of wildlife. And, in the south, the Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway is known for elk roaming freely — this is also where many visitors go for unobstructed views of Mount Rushmore.
And both Las Vegas and the National Parks of the Southwest make for ideal weekend getaways for American road trippers looking for a mix of fun and outdoor adventures.
"Any road trip through the desert southwest is full of unique twists and turns, regardless of whether you remain on the interstate or head off along enticing back roads," according to the AAA. "Long the destination for gold prospectors and other dreamers, the mountains and valleys of the Arizona, Nevada and Utah deserts today provide a glimpse of mankind’s historical interaction with the area’s fantastic natural landscapes."
Las Vegas is a cyclonic city infamous for the debauchery that goes down there — many who visit won't even last more than a long weekend like that of Memorial Day.
But for those who'd rather spend their time outside of the pulsating, wild nightclubs and, instead, immersed in wild nature, the mountains and valleys of the Arizona, Nevada and Utah deserts have even more to offer. In Moab, Utah, for example, adventure lovers can check out Slickrock, a 10.5-mile loop of Navajo Sandstone, is widely considered one of the most famous bike trails in the country — and the whole world — thanks to its steep inclines and nerve-inducing descents. And, of course, it offers some of Utah's most impressive views: a red rock panorama stretching from the Colorado River to the 13,000-foot La Sal Mountains.
AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreportand Facebook.