Nearly a million Marylanders are expected to travel over the upcoming Memorial Day weekend, the largest number since the tracking of holiday travel began in 2000, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic.
They’ll be part of almost 43 million Americans traveling for the holiday, considered the start of the summer tourism and travel season.
Among the 918,000 projected Maryland travelers, more than 800,000 are expected to drive, a more than 3 percent increase from 2018.
That comes as gas prices continue to rise, with Maryland’s average price at $2.79 per gallon, up 2 cents from last week and also up 2 cents from last month.
Another 74,500 Marylanders are expected to fly over the holiday weekend, which extends from Thursday through Monday, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic.
Meanwhile, Maryland’s State Highway Administration is suspending non-essential road work in metropolitan areas as holiday drivers prepare to take to the road.
With many drivers heading over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge to Maryland’s Eastern Shore on U.S. 50, SHA is warning drivers to remain on that road and not take local roads, specifically Md. 8 and Md. 18 in Queen Anne’s County on the way to the beach.
Going onto the local roads congests traffic and can block emergency vehicles, said SHA spokeswoman Shantee Felix.
With more people using driving apps to provide directions, they’re just encouraging drivers to stay on U.S. 50, she said.
Memorial Day is the traditional start of Ocean City’s summer tourism season, spokeswoman Jessica Waters said Wednesday.
“We’re excited. We’re ready,” she said.
Weekends will be busy through June, with a noticeable increase during the week as students finish up school and athletics, she said.
But their busiest time period is between July 4 and Labor Day, when the resort town will house between 250,000 and 300,000 visitors per week.
They’re hoping the weekend’s weather forecast will be favorable, Waters said.
Last year, several rainy Saturdays in a row had an impact on crowds, although it affects outdoor businesses more than others, Waters said.
Any significant weather disruption can put a dent in the bottom line, as spring and summer tourism accounts for a sizable percentage of the $17 billion that tourism brings in each year.
About 31 percent of overnight trips in Maryland take place between July and September, and 27 percent between April and June, according to a study commissioned by the state, said Connie Spindler, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Office of Tourism.
For day trips, 23 percent occur between July and September, with 31 percent between April and June, she said.