Memorial Day road trips are going to be more expensive than many people expect

May 28, 2021, 2:56 PM UTC

It might be Memorial Day weekend, but for millions of people who have been cooped up in their houses for the past year and counting, the upcoming three-day weekend feels more like Independence Day.

Unfortunately, when they fill up their cars before embarking on their road trips, it’s going to feel more like Tax Day.

The average price of gas now stands at $3.04, according to AAA. That’s 16 cents higher than a month ago and a full $1.07 more than people were paying at this time in 2020.

And prices in some states are considerably higher. California, for example, now has an average price per gallon of $4.18. And the price in Michigan has spiked nine cents in the past week.

AAA predicts 34 million Americans will travel by car this weekend—an uptick of 53% from last year. That’s going to cause a spike in demand, which could send prices even higher.

Concerns about crude inventories are also contributing to the rise in gas prices, but not to a substantial degree. A rise in COVID-19 infections around the world could reduce global crude oil consumption, so shortages would not be felt as strongly.

As for the Colonial Pipeline attack, there don’t appear to be any lingering effects. States that the pipeline runs through are all below the national average, with Alabama averaging $2.82 per gallon.

Officials are warning people who do decide to drive somewhere this weekend to be mindful of traffic delays.

“Although vehicle trips are down as much as 40% in some metros, afternoon congestion is nearly back to pre-pandemic levels. With the increase of holiday travelers to the typical afternoon commute, drivers in the larger metros should expect longer delays heading into the holiday weekend,” said Bob Pishue, a transportation analyst at INRIX, a mobile intelligence firm specializing in location-based data. “Travelers should anticipate delays to continue through Memorial Day. Our advice to drivers is to avoid the evening commute times and plan alternate routes.”

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