Here are the best and worst times to travel this Memorial Day weekend

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) — Millions of Americans will be boarding planes or hitting the road this Memorial Day weekend, but when you do, it could make all the difference in avoiding hectic holiday trips.

How many travelers are we talking about?

AAA estimates 3.4 million passengers are expected to fly in the coming days, up 11% from last year.

Travel app Hopper has that estimate even higher, saying airports will be filled with some 17 million passengers who are expected to leave airports nationwide by Monday.

Travel experts say this Memorial Day weekend could be the busiest at airports since 2005.

And if you consider driving instead, there will be 42.3 million Americans joining you. Those people will be traveling 50 miles or more from home this holiday weekend, according to AAA.

This is a 7% increase from 2022.

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Experts say it’s a mix of several factors, including lower gas prices, more destinations open to tourists this year and many competitive prices, all compared to last year.

AAA discovered over the next few days that more and more people were switching to other modes of transportation, such as buses and trains.

These travelers are expected to total 1.85 million. This represents an increase of 20.6% compared to 2022.

What are the best times to go?

If you’re going on vacation, here’s a way to reduce any potential stress by breaking down the best and worst times to go.

By car:

Between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. on Thursday, forget it. Transport data experts say this will be the window for the worst travel times. Instead, leave before 1 p.m.

On Friday, that same 3-6pm window is not ideal and instead you should leave before noon.

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On Saturday and Sunday, traffic impacts are expected to be minimal, with the bank holiday weekend already underway.

And when you get back, noon to 3 p.m. would be the worst time to hit the road. Instead, start your day early and travel before 10 a.m.

For those on an extended vacation, Tuesday anytime before 2:00 p.m. or after 6:00 p.m. would be best for you.

By plane:

For the millions and millions of flights booked, the busiest days are Thursday and Friday.

Monday will be the heaviest return day.

The FAA Saturday and Sunday projects will have the fewest flights but at that time your weekend is limited.

Most airports will be busiest in the morning or early evening.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said the FAA is still working to hire more air traffic controllers to keep up with demand.

“Airlines need to establish more realistic schedules and actively support that. But there is a question. There is always a question of whether airlines are properly aligning their schedules that they promise with their resources and the staff that they they bring to the table, including enough of a buffer to deal with situations that may arise,” Buttigieg said.

You can imagine, even a slight hiccup can cause a massive travel headache.

Buttigieg added that airlines are now held accountable for staff shortages and failing to prepare for inclement weather.

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