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2021 Memorial Day weekend middle-distance travel up from 2019 and 2020, but total trips still down from 2019

Thursday, June 17, 2021

COVID-19 travel recovery more a marathon than a sprint?

Americans took more mid-range trips during the recent 2021 Memorial Day weekend than they did in both 2019 and 2020. Data BTS analyzed indicate that Americans took 6.1 billion total trips over the 2021 Memorial Day weekend, the traditional kickoff weekend for summer travel. That’s a 13% increase over 2020’s 5.4 billion trips. Although that increase signals a possibly busy season ahead, it still fell 12% short of pre-pandemic 2019’s 6.9 billion trips. 

Middle-distance trips during 2021 Memorial Day weekend pass 2019 and 2020.

Travelers took more than 100 million trips of 50 to 99 miles and more than 50 million trips of 100 to 250 miles during the holiday weekend. As the chart below shows, that’s more trips for both distance groupings than during the same weekend in 2020 and is in keeping with the developing U.S. emergence from the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s also interesting to note that the number of trips in those two middle-distance groupings taken this Memorial Day weekend represents an increase over the pre-pandemic baseline year of 2019.

Data suggest that trips between 250 and 500 miles number about the same across all three years. Trips longer than 500 miles in 2021 still lag 2019, a pattern supported by the persistent lag in air travel as shown in our Week In Transportation page. 

Local trips, which number several billions more than longer-distance trips in all years, also continue to lag behind the 2019 numbers. 

Millions continue to stay home as pandemic persists.

Although the total number of trips was up this year over 2020, the chart below indicates a greater percentage of Americans stayed home each day during the holiday weekend this year than last. There are many possible explanations for these contradictory observations.  More research is needed to better understand why.