Memorial Day travel: Worst times to hit the road, top destinations for Southern Californians

Despite soaring gas prices and unrelenting inflation, more Southern Californians are expected to travel this Memorial Day weekend compared to last year.

An estimated 3.1 million people in the Southland are expected to take trips this holiday — a robust increase from the previous year, according to the Automobile Club of Southern California.

The increase is being attributed to “pent-up demand” from the pandemic.

“With pandemic restrictions lifting and modes of travel such as air and cruises continuing to rebound, Auto Club travel advisors are working hard to rebook trips that were delayed over the last two years and plan new adventures for friends and families,” said Heather Felix, the Auto Club’s vice president of travel products and services.

Top travel destinations

According to an Auto Club survey, the top five destinations for Southern California travelers this holiday are:

  1. Mexico

2. Las Vegas

3. Grand Canyon National Park

4. San Diego

5. Santa Barbara and the Central Coast

Hawaii is the top destination for Southern California travelers who are flying.

Nationally, Anaheim is expected be the fifth most popular destination for travelers, AAA predicts.

Headed to LAX? Check out Fly LAX Stats to learn about parking, traffic and more.

Memorial Day traffic and worst time to hit the road

Drivers are expected encounter the longest travel delays before the holiday weekend, particularly during the afternoons on Thursday, May 26 and Friday, May 27, INRIX predicts.

INRIX says that in major U.S. metros, drivers could see double the travel times compared to a normal trip.

In the Los Angeles metro area, the busiest corridor will be the southbound 5 Freeway, between Colorado Street and Florence Avenue. It will be the worst between 4:45 p.m. and 6:45 p.m. on Friday, May 27.

“Even with a significant increase in gas prices, we expect a large jump in holiday driving compared to the last few years”, INRIX Transportation Analyst Bob Pishue said. “Drivers should expect congestion on major roadways around big cities and popular destinations. Knowing when and where congestion will build can help drivers avoid the stress of sitting in traffic.”

Day Worst time Best time
Thursday 1 p.m.- 8 p.m. Before 6 a.m. or after 9 p.m.
Friday 12 p.m. -7 p.m. Before 7 a.m. or after 9 p.m.
Saturday 1 p.m. -6 p.m. Before 10 a.m.
Sunday 1 p.m. -4 p.m. Before 10 a.m.
Monday 1 p.m. -4 p.m. Before 11 a.m.

Memorial Day gas prices

This year, travelers will likely be paying the highest prices ever for a Memorial Day holiday.

Both statewide and throughout the U.S., gas prices have been surging in recent weeks, with prices averaging around $6 a gallon statewide, according to AAA.

Gas prices are about $1.70 higher than they were during the same time last year in Southern California, and that means drivers will be paying about $24 more to fill up the typical 14-gallon size tank, AAA said.