Memorial Day 2021 Travel Guide

As Americans plan post-vaccinations vacations over Memorial Day, Hopper breaks down the top trending destinations, when to fly & buy and provides travel guidance for those planning a long weekend getaway.

Adit Damodaran - May. 25, 2021

With nearly half of adult Americans partially vaccinated (according to Johns Hopkins University), summer travel is on the top of consumers’ minds. 

As travelers gear up for the first long weekend of summer, where are Americans planning to travel this Memorial Day? The research team at travel booking app, Hopper compiled the latest data based on its archive of billions of airfare price quotes from flight searches happening all across the web daily to outline its travel guidance for Memorial Day 2021.

For those who haven't made plans yet for the long weekend, the experts at Hopper recommend booking flights for Memorial Day no later than May 5th. Domestic airfare prices are expected to rise 16% in the two weeks after May 5th - and then surge a total of 43% leading up to Memorial Day weekend. 

Summary: 

Most Searched Destinations for Memorial Day

  • The most searched domestic destinations include: 1.) Las Vegas; 2.) Orlando; 3.) Miami.

  • The most searched international destinations include: 1.) Cancún, Mexico; 2.) San Juan, Puerto Rico; 3.) San Jose del Cabo, Mexico.

Top Booked Destinations on Hopper for Memorial Day

  • The most searched domestic destinations include:  1.) Las Vegas; 2.) Miami; 3.) Orlando

  • The most booked international destinations include: 1.) Cancún, Mexico; 2.) San Juan, Puerto Rico; 3.) Mexico City, Mexico

  • Domestic bookings tended to lean towards Florida beaches and popular tourist destinations such as Orlando and Las Vegas. International bookings are heavily concentrated in the Caribbean and Mexico.

When to Buy?

  • Domestic: We recommend booking domestic travel no later than May 5th (26 days before Memorial Day). In order to get the cheapest prices, you’ll want to book flights as soon as possible.

  • International: We recommend booking international travel no later than May 3rd. Book as soon as possible to get the cheapest prices on international airfare.

When to Fly?

  • Domestic: For domestic flights, Tuesday, May 25th and Wednesday, May 26th are your cheapest departure dates and could save you around ~$60 on airfare.

  • International: Headed to the Caribbean, Mexico, or Central America? Monday, May 24th and Tuesday, May 25th are your cheapest options, saving you around $130 compared to leaving on Thursday or Friday. For other regions, airfare can vary with how tight travel restrictions are, but you should generally aim to leave before Saturday, May 29th. 

Busiest Days to Depart/Return

  • Friday, May 28th is looking to be the busiest day to depart, with a total capacity of 2.84 million seats. Memorial Day itself (Monday, May 31st), is shaping up to be the busiest day to return, with a total capacity of 2.71m seats. In 2020, the Friday of Memorial Day Weekend and Memorial Day itself saw the highest TSA passenger throughput as well. 

Busiest Airports

  • Atlanta, Chicago (O’Hare), and Los Angeles (LAX) look like they’ll be the busiest airports on Memorial Day. 

Where’s Trending for Memorial Day 2021?

Most Searched Destinations for Memorial Day Weekend

Hopper collects, from several Global Distribution System partners, 25 to 30 billion airfare price quotes every day from searches happening all across the web. Since Hopper users tend to skew towards younger leisure travelers, our bookings tend to reflect this demographic’s interests.

Search traffic collected from across the web is more representative of the broader industry.

Notably London (#4) crops up in the international Memorial Day weekend searches, and Denver (#4), Honolulu (#7), and Dallas (#8) in domestic searches. 

Trending Destinations
Most searched destinations for Memorial Day Weekend

Most Booked Destinations for Memorial Day Weekend

These were the most booked destinations on Hopper for Memorial Day weekend, both domestically and internationally. The round-trip airfare shown is based on the most recent 2 weeks of data for Memorial Day weekend departures specifically. 

Most Booked Destinations on Hopper
Top destinations booked on Hopper for Memorial Day Weekend 2021

When to Buy? 

Domestic: We recommend booking domestic travel as soon as possible to get the cheapest prices, and to book no later than May 5th (26 days before Memorial Day). We expect prices to rise 16% in the two weeks after May 5th, and then surge 43% into Memorial Day weekend. 

Prices
Average round-trip airfare prices for Memorial Day Weekend by booking date

International: We recommend booking international travel as soon as possible to get the cheapest prices, and to book no later than May 3rd (28 days before Memorial Day). After May 3rd, we expect prices to rise 13% in the following two weeks, and then 25% leading up to Memorial Day weekend.

International Prices
Average round-trip international airfare prices for Memorial Day Weekend, by booking date

When to Fly?

Domestic

For domestic flights, Tuesday, May 25th and Wednesday May 26th are your cheapest departure dates and could save you around $60. If you can’t fly during the week, we’d recommend Saturday, May 29th as the next cheapest option with savings closer to $40. 

When to Fly?
Prices by departure date

International (Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean)

If you’re flying internationally to the Caribbean, Mexico, or Central America, Monday, May 24th and Tuesday, May 25th are your cheapest options, saving you around $130 compared to leaving on Thursday or Friday. If neither works well for you, Sunday, May 30th is your next best bet, saving you $80 compared to Thursday/Friday. 

International (All Other International Regions)

Airfare to other regions depends more on travel restrictions, so be sure to check these before planning your trip. You’ll save the most leaving Thursday, May 27th, but you should generally aim to leave before Saturday, May 29th.

Busiest Travel Days for Memorial Day Weekend

Similar to 2020, the Friday of Memorial Day weekend looks like it’ll be the busiest time to depart, with Memorial Day itself being the busiest day to return. 

Busiest Travel Days for Memorial Day Weekend
Busiest days for returns and departures over Memorial Day

Busiest Airports over Memorial Day Weekend

Based on flights’ filed schedules, the morning of Friday, May 28th will likely be the busiest time to depart at most airports. Two airports, Las Vegas McCarran International and Seattle-Tacoma International, may see more passenger traffic in the evening.

Busiest Airports
Ranking of busiest airports and departure times based on flight schedules and capacity

Memorial Day Travel Booking Tips

  • Check for Low Cost Carriers - Flying Domestic? Check if a low cost carrier such as Spirit, Frontier, or Southwest is beginning service from your city around Memorial Day weekend. Leisure destinations with service from a low cost carrier can be had for an average of 15-20% off even if you book through a legacy carrier, since they are incentivized to compete on price.

  • Avoid busy airport crowds - The morning and evening tend to be the busiest time to depart at major airports. If you can be flexible, aim for an afternoon departure. Overall, Friday, May 28th & Monday, May 31st are shaping up to be the busiest travel days this year, so be sure to avoid these dates for fewer crowds.

  • Staying in a hotel? Book a room soon - For popular leisure destinations (Orlando, Phoenix, Tampa, Las Vegas), we recommend booking no later than 3 weeks in advance of your stay for the best deals. For big cities, we recommend booking hotels 1-2 weeks in advance if you’re traveling to a large metro city (New York City, Boston, Dallas, Chicago). 

  • Add Flexibility to your trip -  If you're nervous about plans possibly changing, be sure to take advantage of trip protection options, such as Hopper’s Flexible Dates Plan. Travelers can instantly change the date, time, and even airline of their flight for any reason up to 24 hours prior to departure with just a few taps directly in the app. 

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