(NEWSnet/AP) – Highways are likely to be jammed the next few days as Americans head out for Memorial Day weekend getaways and then return home.

AAA predicts this will be the busiest start-of-summer weekend in nearly 20 years, with 43.8 million people expected to travel at least 50 miles from home between Thursday and Monday.

That’s in addition to the likely record air travel predicted for this weekend into the summer by federal agencies. A slowdown, and in some cases a retreat, from the big price increases of the last two years may be helping.

Airfares are down 6% and hotel rates have dipped 0.4%, compared with a year ago, according to government figures released last week. Prices for renting a car or truck are down 10%. The nationwide price of gas is around $3.60 a gallon, about 6 cents higher than a year ago, according to AAA.

Johannes Thomas, CEO of the hotel and travel search company Trivago, said he thinks more customers are feeling the pinch of prices that have plateaued but at much higher levels than before the pandemic. He said they are booking farther in advance, staying closer to home, taking shorter trips, and compromising on accommodations — staying in three-star hotels instead of five-star ones.

As in past years, most holiday travelers are expected to travel by car – more than 38 million of them, according to AAA. The organization advises motorists hoping to avoid the worst traffic to leave metropolitan areas early Thursday and Friday and to stay off the roads between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. Sunday and Monday.

“We haven’t seen any pullback in travel since the pandemic. Year after year, we have seen these numbers continue to grow,” AAA spokesperson Aixa Diaz said. “We don’t know when it’s going to stop. There’s no sign of it yet.”

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