Despite gas prices approaching $3 a gallon, almost 42 million Americans are expected to travel during the Memorial Day weekend, including nearly 900,000 Marylanders.
The predicted 890,000 Maryland travelers is 4.7 percent more than this time last year, and the most since 2001, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic, which released its Memorial Day forecast Tuesday.
While Memorial Day weekend stands as the traditional start of the summer travel season, it tends to involve shorter getaways than during the rest of the summer, because kids have to be back at school the next day, said Christine Delise, a spokeswoman for AAA Mid-Atlantic.
Thursday and Friday are expected to be the busiest travel days, as holiday traffic mixes with commuters going to and from work. Between 4:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. Thursday is expected to be the busiest travel time of the weekend, Delise said.
The expected increase in travel comes with gas prices that have risen significantly compared with a year ago.
The gas price in Frederick was $2.96 per gallon, the same as the state average, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic.
The Frederick prices were 7 cents higher than last week, and 62 cents higher than a year ago.
Even with the higher prices, drivers on shorter trips may not think as much about the cost of filling the tank if they’re doing it only once, Delise said.
Ocean City and Deep Creek Lake will be two of the most popular destinations, as travelers head to the beach or the mountains to celebrate the holiday.
Ocean City is expecting close to 250,000 visitors over the weekend, said Jessica Waters, a spokeswoman for the city’s tourism office.
They’ll see about 4 million visitors between Memorial Day and Labor Day, she said.
The city will average between 200,000 and 250,000 visitors a week during the summer, a massive increase from the roughly 7,500 residents who live there year-round.
But Waters said they’re used to living in a resort town, and accept the summer crowds for what they are.
“It’s just business as usual in the summertime,” she said.
Sarah Duck, director of tourism and marketing for the Garrett County Chamber of Commerce, said that Deep Creek Lake usually sees about 1.2 million visitors per year, with many coming in the summer.
“I think everybody thinks of Memorial Day as the unofficial kickoff of summer,” she said.
The largest freshwater lake in Maryland offers fishing, boating, hiking and horseback riding, among other activities.
Duck noted that AAA is predicting more holiday travel, and said Deep Creek Lake is expecting a busy holiday weekend.
“We definitely hope to see an increase as well,” she said.
While the beginning of the summer tourism season often means people heading to various vacation spots, Frederick County will also see some visitors of its own over the summer.
John Fieseler, executive director of the Tourism Council of Frederick County, said the county took in $395 million from visitor spending in 2016, the last year for which numbers are available.
The number tracks portions of hotel rentals, restaurant receipts and other costs from people who traveled at least 50 miles to visit the county except for commuting or for school.
People who travel the farthest to visit are usually coming for Frederick County’s Civil War history such as the National Museum of Civil War Medicine and Monocacy National Battlefield, as well as the county’s proximity to Gettysburg and Antietam, Fieseler said.
Visitors coming from closer to the county often come from areas such as Washington, D.C., and come for bicycling, shopping, and dining, he said.
The county’s breweries, wineries and distilleries have also become popular in recent years, Fieseler said.
But before you head out, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Delise suggested that drivers take some time to make sure their vehicles have proper fluid levels and are ready to take to the road before they set out on their trips.
“Nobody wants to spend part of their holiday stranded along the side of the road,” she said.