Memorial Day 2021: Best, Worst Times To Travel From New Jersey

Gisela Steep

NEW JERSEY – The unofficial start to the summer travel season will kick off this weekend with more than 34 million Americans, including over 850,000 New Jerseyans, setting off on a road trip for Memorial Day. In the New York City metro area, expect traffic to get 5.4 times worse […]

NEW JERSEY – The unofficial start to the summer travel season will kick off this weekend with more than 34 million Americans, including over 850,000 New Jerseyans, setting off on a road trip for Memorial Day.

In the New York City metro area, expect traffic to get 5.4 times worse this Memorial Day weekend, with the worst travel time predicted to be 1-3 p.m. Friday, May 28. The most backed-up road will be I-95 West and U.S. Rt. 130 in South Jersey, the agency predicted.

“Travelers should anticipate delays to start on (Friday) and continue through Memorial Day. Our advice to drivers is to avoid the evening commute times and plan alternate routes,” said Bob Pishue, transportation analyst at INRIX.

Partnering with travel analytics firm INRIX, AAA predicts that drivers will encounter the longest travel delays during Friday afternoon. The next worst times would be Saturday and Sunday mornings.

Delays will be widespread, AAA predicts, but drivers in several major U.S. metros could experience double the travel times compared to a normal trip. Drivers in Atlanta, Houston and New York could see more than three times the delay on the busiest corridors.

For the 34 million Americans expected to travel by car this Memorial Day, they can expect gas prices to be the most expensive since 2014 with the national average possibly more expensive than $3 per gallon.

“We don’t expect higher gas prices to deter motorists this holiday season as many Americans are eager to travel,” said Jeanette C. McGee, AAA spokesperson. “We typically find when pump prices increase, travelers look for more free activities or eat out less while on vacation, but still take their planned trips.”

Gas prices will be increasing in part due to higher demand. As demand increases, gas stations are working to adjust delivery schedules to keep pace. However, there have been instances where some stations are seeing low to no supply at pumps for a few days due to delayed deliveries. Read more: Nearly 1 Million New Jerseyans To Travel For Memorial Day Weekend

Over the holiday weekend, some gas stations in popular travel destinations — like beaches and mountain areas — may experience this situation. So be prepared.

Currently, the Colonial Pipeline, which delivers 45 percent of fuel to the East Coast is offline due to a cyberattack, which will contribute to price increases and limited fuel supply ahead of the holiday. This will affect areas from Mississippi to Tennessee and the east coast from Georgia into Delaware, but hopefully be resolved ahead of Memorial Day weekend.

Before you hit the road, AAA recommends getting a vehicle inspection to check key components like the battery, engine, tires, brakes and fluid levels.

“As many cars sat idle most of last year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is even more important than ever to make sure that your car is road-ready before heading out this holiday,” said Tracy E. Noble, Public and Government Affairs Manager at AAA Mid-Atlantic.

Last year, AAA Mid-Atlantic came to the rescue of over 21,000 motorists, including more than 5,000 in New Jersey.

“Dead batteries, lockouts and flat tires will be the leading reasons AAA members will experience car trouble,” said Rick Santiago, AAA’s Car Care District Director.

In an effort to ensure cars are road-ready, travelers are advised to have their vehicles inspected by trusted repair shops, including AAA Car Care Centers. AAA Mid-Atlantic is also offering a free oil change for New Jersey AAA members who visit any AAA Car Care Center in the state through June 30th. Members can schedule an appointment at AAA.com/CarCare.

“Given the increased number of people traveling for the holiday and the renewed enthusiasm for a Great American Road Trip, it is vital that travelers be prepared for emergencies,” said Noble. “Travelers can refer to AAA’s free COVID-19 Travel Restrictions Map and TripTik for the latest information to help plan their trip.”

From May 28 through May 31, more than 37 million Americans are expected to travel 50 miles or more from home, an increase of 60 percent from last year when only 23 million traveled, the lowest on record since AAA began recording in 2000.

“As more people get the COVID-19 vaccine and consumer confidence grows, Americans are demonstrating a strong desire to travel this Memorial Day,” said Paula Twidale, senior vice president, AAA Travel. “This pent-up demand will result in a significant increase in Memorial Day travel, which is a strong indicator for summer.”

“Though we must all remember to continue taking important safety precautions,” she added.

A huge increase in air travel is expected, but most travelers this Memorial Day weekend are expected to take road trips, the agency said.

With 34 million Americans planning Memorial Day road trips, auto travel is expected to increase 52 percent compared to 2020, although that is still 9 percent less than in 2019.

The travel industry was decimated by the pandemic, but the biggest travel trends now leading travel recovery are domestic travel (within the U.S.) and road trips. Here are the top U.S. destinations for road trips, according to AAA Travel bookings and TripTik road trip searches:

  1. Las Vegas, NV
  2. Orlando, FL
  3. Myrtle Beach, SC
  4. Denver, CO
  5. Nashville, TN

With the lifting of broad pandemic-related restrictions across the region, The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey expects more than 4.3 million travelers across its facilities this Memorial Day weekend.

To accommodate motorists traveling between New York and New Jersey, many ongoing repairs and construction projects at its crossings will be suspended from Friday, May 28, to Tuesday morning, June 1.

The agency anticipates more than 920,000 passengers will travel through John F. Kennedy International, Newark Liberty International, LaGuardia and New York Stewart International airports from Friday through Tuesday, and encourages travelers to allow for additional travel time. Based on recent travel trends, as many as 3.4 million vehicles are expected to cross the Port Authority’s bridges and tunnels over the same holiday weekend period, similar to 2019 actual traffic volumes.

As a reminder for any passengers or motorists traveling through Port Authority facilities, some restrictions and service changes remain in place to protect the health and safety of employees and the public. Face coverings continue to be required for anyone using mass transit regardless of vaccination status. They are required in Port Authority facilities such as PATH trains and stations; the World Trade Center transportation hub; the Midtown Bus Terminal and George Washington Bridge Bus Station; all Port Authority’s airports and on AirTrain.

All Airports:

  • Visit the Port Authority’s Travel Tips & Information page here for help preparing for an upcoming trip by air.
  • As a reminder, terminal access at John F. Kennedy, Newark Liberty and LaGuardia and New York Stewart International airports is restricted to ticketed passengers, airport employees, and those who otherwise demonstrate a need to enter the facility for airport business. Anyone entering a terminal may be asked to provide evidence of a reason for entry, such as a ticket, boarding pass, flight reservation or comparable item for a flight departing from that particular airport; an airport identification card (airport employee ID); or documentation that a person is a vendor, contractor or otherwise doing authorized business within the terminal.
  • TSA has implemented changes to the security screening process that reduce the potential for cross-contamination at the security checkpoint in an effort to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Tips on how to make travel easier during the pandemic are available here. Passengers should check the policies of their preferred airline, and visit the CDC’s page for travel guidance, requirements and restrictions.
  • COVID-19 tests are available by appointment at all three major airports. For information about test locations and appointment availability, click here for each airport: JFK, Newark Liberty, LaGuardia.
  • From Monday, May 24, through Friday, May 28, free COVID-19 vaccines for all employees and travelers are available at JFK and LaGuardia airports in partnership with JetBlue, Delta, Northwell Health and CVS.
  • From 12:01 a.m. Thursday, May 27, through 11:59 p.m. Monday, May 31, the Port Authority and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority will offer free LaGuardia Link Q70 Select Bus Service to ease mass transit connections for customers and employees traveling to and from LaGuardia Airport.

George Washington Bridge:

  • A ramp to the northbound Henry Hudson Parkway near the George Washington Bridge will remain closed for repairs to a retaining wall. Eastbound motorists exiting at Riverside Drive or heading to the northbound Henry Hudson Parkway are advised to take the upper level of the bridge. Access to the southbound Henry Hudson Parkway remains unaffected. Westbound motorists are encouraged to exit at 181st Street off the bridge’s lower level for the Henry Hudson Parkway or Riverside Drive.

Holland Tunnel:

  • At all hours, the right turn lane from Hudson Street onto Canal Street in Manhattan will be closed.

PATH:

  • On Memorial Day, May 31, trains will operate on a Saturday schedule. For more information, including real-time train information, trip planning and PATH alerts, please visit www.panynj.gov/PATH.
  • Customers who use the WTC PATH station during overnights should use the entrances at Fulton Street or Vesey Street via the North Concourse in the 2 World Trade Center Transit Lobby. Oculus access will be limited overnight from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. to allow for enhanced cleaning and the safety and security of customers due to reduced traffic volumes. All other entrances will be closed. For more updates on the WTC campus, click here.
  • As a reminder, the 9 Street and 23 Street stations are closed from 11 p.m. each night to 5 a.m. the following morning for maintenance. Nearby PATH stations at Christopher Street, 14 Street and 33 Street remain open 24 hours a day unless otherwise noted.
  • For information on PATH service and train schedules, visit www.panynj.gov/StayOnTrack or download the PATH mobile app, RidePath.

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