Best Time to Travel in May [Memorial Day, Traffic, Crowds]

When Is the Best Time

Except for Memorial Day Weekend, May isn’t typically a popular travel month in the United States, as most children are still in school. However, it is a great time to travel if you are able because it offers mild temperatures and fewer crowds in popular destinations.

Spring brings warm temperatures and ideal conditions for appreciating national parks, forests, and wetlands, especially in California, Florida, Utah, and Wyoming. In addition, northern states and cities, like New York, Washington D.C., and Chicago have pleasant temperatures and autumn views.

Memorial Day Travel: Memorial Day marks the beginning of the summer holiday season for many, so it is a busy travel time. In fact, from May 27 to May 31, an estimated 37 million people are expected to travel more than fifty miles from their residence.

Here is the best advice for traveling on or around Memorial Day, as well as a list of the busiest American cities on and around the holiday weekend.

Best Time to Travel in May for Less Traffic

Scenic Highway 163 takes you straight to Monument Valley. Google Maps Location

The best time to travel in May to avoid busy traffic times is on weekdays in the middle of the month. This is because most people will be saving their travel plans for Memorial Day weekend itself, which is the last weekend of the month.

Here’s a breakdown of what the month of May usually looks like for travelers:

Week One

Typically, traffic isn’t too bad the first week of May since most kids are still in school. However, conditions can change around Cinco de Mayo depending on local celebrations and parades.

Check to see if anything is happening in your area between May 3-6 to keep yourself informed of any expected crowds, and therefore, traffic issues.

Week Two and Three

Generally, these weeks are pretty quiet traffic-wise. However, avoid traveling during rush hour and weekends if possible as people will take weekend trips.

Again, though, most people will save their travel plans for Memorial Day weekend, so it shouldn’t be too bad.

Week Four

Memorial Day is always the last Monday in May, so car travel is expected. As a result, the Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday of Memorial Day weekend will be extremely congested.

Avoid traveling on Memorial Day itself and the Friday before if you can. You should find that one or two days after Memorial Day, the roads get quieter.

Best Time to Travel on Memorial Day by Car

Trans Mountain Road, El Paso in May. Google Maps Location

Many Americans hit the road for a Memorial Day Weekend road trip, which unfortunately means that the streets and highways fill up pretty quickly. Traffic can get highly congested, even bumper-to-bumper, so it’s best to leave at a less popular time for both your starting and returning journeys.

The best times to travel around Memorial Day are Thursday afternoon or Friday morning when starting your trip. The best times to return from your trip are on Monday in the morning or in the evening. That way, you can avoid busy roads and reach your destination faster.

The Days and Times in Detail

Here are the worst times to start your trip:

  • Thursday between 3:30 and 5:30 p.m. is a popular time to start a Memorial Day trip, so traffic will likely be congested during this time.
  • Friday from noon to 6:00 p.m. is also a standard start time, as most people take a half-day off to start their long weekend. Holiday travels also mix with commuters during this time, increasing traffic.

Here are the best times to start your Memorial Day Weekend trip:

  • If you want to get an early start, try leaving in the early afternoon (from 1:00-3:00 p.m.) on Thursday. This way, you’ll beat the other early-starters, and you’ll avoid the messiness of Friday travel.
  • Early in the morning on Friday will help you get out before the traffic starts to build up, especially since most people can only get a half-day off on Friday and have to start their trip in the afternoon or evening.

Here are the worst times to return:

  • Monday from noon to six p.m. is a typical time to start the return journey, as the weekend’s festivities have ended and most people want to get home early enough to prepare for work the next day, so traffic is usually bumper-to-bumper during this time.
  • Sunday afternoon and evening is also a popular time to start heading back, especially for those who want to relax at home on Monday.

Here are the best times to return from your Memorial Day vacation: :

  • Early in the morning on Monday is a good idea if you’re willing to get up early to beat the crowds. Many people will be nursing a hangover Monday morning, so if you’re able to hit the road before they recover, you’ll be in good shape to avoid traffic.
  • Late Monday evening usually clears out because most people will be at home already. This isn’t an ideal time to start the journey since you won’t get home until late, but it is an excellent way to avoid traffic buildup.

Best Road Atlas | Our Tips

Even with GPS, Google Maps, and everything else. We always keep an Atlas in our car. It saved us so many times. It will never lose service and your route in May can be planned much better!

Best Ways to Avoid the Crowds on Memorial Day Weekend

Even if you’re traveling on Memorial Day weekend, you can still dodge the jam-packed times and areas. Here are our five must-know tips:

  1. Get up early: Try to be at the popular places at least before 9 a.m. Typically, it starts to get busy after 9 a.m. on Memorial Day Weekend end of May. Around midday, places are packed.
  2. Stay late: Crowds begin to dissipate after 5 p.m. That’s the time when most visitors get hungry and start to eat dinner. At sunset, some places get busy again.
  3. Shift dinner time: Most visitors and families have dinner between 5 and 7 p.m. Visiting the restaurants around 3 or 4 p.m. means getting a table easier. Just skip lunch.
  4. Venture away: Just venture away from the busy must-see sites. Most National parks and other places offer hidden gems that you should discover. Just check Google before you go.
  5. Step out: Venture away from the busy must-see sites. Most National parks and other places offer hidden gems that you should discover. Please search Google before you go.

Best Radar Detectors | Our Tips

Best Time to Travel on Memorial Day by Plane

While Memorial Day is a standard road trip holiday, some people choose to fly to their destination.

So, here are the worst times to start your Memorial Day trip with a flight because of the crowding and the high costs:

  • Flights during the daytime on the Friday before Memorial Day are always jam-packed.
  • Any flight in the afternoon or evening on the Thursday before Memorial Day will also be full.
  • Early in the morning on Thursday is still relatively busy, but not as bad.

Of course, the worst day to fly back is Memorial Day itself.

Here are the best times to fly over the holiday:

  • Thursday morning is the best time to fly out while most people are still at work.
  • You can also opt for a red-eye flight on Wednesday night if you have Thursday off.
  • The best time to return by plane is on Sunday. Because most people opt for Monday for their return travel, Sunday is usually a safe bet.
  • Tuesday can also be a solid option if you have the day off of work.

Keep in mind, however, that larger airports will always be busier than local airports. So, if you can, try to find somewhere that doesn’t fly internationally (unless your trip takes you out of the country).

Here are the busiest airports for Memorial Day weekend, so avoid flying out of these if you can:

  • Atlanta (ATL)
  • Chicago (ORD)
  • Los Angeles (LAX)
  • Dallas (DFW)
  • Denver (DEN)
  • Seattle (SEA)
  • Orlando (MCO)
  • New York City (JFK)
  • San Francisco (SFO)

Hotel Booking | Deals

If you need a hotel on Memorial Day weekend, book in advance as early as possible. Also, check the deals on booking.com:



Booking.com

Busiest Cities on Memorial Day

If you’re not heading home for the holiday, you might be looking to visit somewhere new. But, again, keep in mind that bigger cities will always be busier.

So, if you don’t want to face traffic driving in and out of a larger city, maybe opt for somewhere quieter.

Here are the most popular cities to visit for Memorial Day:

  • Dallas, Texas
  • San Francisco, California
  • Miami, Florida
  • New Orleans, Louisiana
  • Boston, Massachusetts
  • Orlando, Florida
  • Los Angeles, California
  • Atlanta, Georgia
  • Las Vegas, Nevada
  • Chicago, Illinois
  • Washington, D.C.

3 Must-Have Car Interior Accessories | Bestseller

We thought it’s a good idea to add the bestseller list for car accessories from Amazon. These may be really useful for your next road trip in May or on Memorial Day Weekend:

Bestseller No. 1
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5 Tips for Heavy Traffic | Staying Safe

Our general tips for dealing with heavy traffic and congested roads on Memorial Day Weekend:

1. Remove Distractions

When there is a lot of traffic, people will start to get impatient and try to merge where they probably shouldn’t. The last thing you need is something else to take your mind off of these things. It’s important to:

  • Turn off your cell phone (or set it to silent mode)
  • Turn down the volume of music you are listening to
  • Asking your passengers to be quiet until you get out of a busy area
2. Allow Enough Distance

It’s best to leave at least 3 seconds between you and the driver ahead of you. Using steady objects is a good way to measure this. Start counting when the car in front of you passes a light pole. If you get to three before you pass the same light pole, you’re in the safe zone.

Keep an eye out for the brake lights, too. If the driver ahead of you starts to slow down, you should keep the same distance.

3. Watch Out for Heavy Traffic in the Distance

When you’re getting close to a busy part of the road, you should take your foot off the gas and let your car coast forward. This will slow you down and save gas at the same time.

Depending on how close you are to heavy traffic, you may also need to brake to slow down to a safe speed.

If you slow down, it’s possible that the heavy traffic will break up before you get there. This constant, slower speed will save gas and make it less likely that you will get into an accident.

4. Don’t Weave

It’s very dangerous to switch lanes quickly to try to get ahead of the traffic. Since other drivers can’t know what you’re going to do, they may switch lanes as you get closer. In the same way, you don’t know what other cars are going to do, so the safest thing to do is stay in one lane unless you have to change lanes.

5. Plan Ahead

If you follow our tips above, you might not have to deal with heavy traffic at all. Other general things to keep in mind are:

  • Weather conditions: Bad weather like snow, rain, and fog can all cause traffic jams.
  • Construction on the roads: Know where roadwork is going on so you can avoid it and make your trip faster and more fun.
  • Events: Festivals, game days, holiday parades on Memorial Day Weekend, and other things like that can cause more traffic than usual.

Even if you plan for all of these things, you might still hit traffic on Memorial Day weekend. So, it’s best to always have a different way to get where you’re going. If possible, you should know both a highway route and a side street route so that if one fails, the other can take over.

 

5 Best Memorial Day Weekend Getaways

Joshua Tree National Park in May

Regardless of the traffic and how busy some places and cities are, there are a few exceptional destinations that offer a unique experience on Memorial Day weekend. These are our top 5:

1. Las Vegas

Memorial Day marks the official start of summer and is one of the craziest party weekends in Las Vegas. Throughout the three-day weekend, there are numerous pool parties, nightclub activities, and concerts. Sin City will be bustling with activities and events.

The Strip (Top Tip): Carnaval Court at Harrah’s! Basically an open-air street party at the center of the Strip. Day and night, you will enjoy music from the best live cover bands keeping the crowds entertained. Bottle-flipping bartenders prepare your drinks behind and sometimes at the top of the bar.

The best Vegas events and parties on MDW:

  • Encore Beach Club Vegas Memorial Day Weekend
  • Marquee Day Club Memorial Day Weekend
  • Tao Beach MDW
  • AYU Dayclub Memorial Day Weekend
  • Drais Beach Memorial Day Weekend
  • EBC at Night Las Vegas Memorial Day Weekend
  • Omnia Las Vegas Memorial Day Weekend
  • Jewel Las Vegas Memorial Day Weekend DJ Events

Traveling to Las Vegas in May is a great choice, as it’s not as hot as in the coming summer months.

2. Boston

The city of Boston is our top tip. The Memorial Day Weekend is a great time to visit Boston because it is warm and pleasant. Plus, there are lots of things to do, like the big 3-day Boston Calling music festival, Red Sox games, and the Garden of Flags on Boston Common.

This weekend, many people from Boston go to Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, or the New Hampshire mountains. Thus, it will be a lot easier for visitors to get good deals on hotel rooms, restaurant reservations, tickets to shows and cruises, and even Red Sox tickets.

Additionally, it’s a great time for whale watching in Boston, as you can spot humpbacks and other species.

3. Miami, Florida

The end of May is a great time to visit, as most of Miami’s best beachfront hotels are less crowded and have lower rates. The city also has some of the best beach parties in the country. Even Vegas can’t beat its booze-filled celebrations, which include beach parties, music festivals, and busy nightclubs.

Not everything in Miami is a party, though. Several ceremonies and parades are held all over the greater Miami area to honor the country’s veterans.

4. Phoenix

As Arizona’s temperatures start to rise, hotel and resort prices start to go down. This means that you can get great deals on many of the state’s best spots over the three-day weekend. Additionally, you can take advantage of the heat by going to Hurricane Harbor Phoenix, which has all kinds of exciting water rides and family fun on the weekends.

Alternatively, you can get relax for a few days with a spa package and yoga, Pilates, and Tai Chi classes at a resort.

For more tips read our Phoenix in May guide.

5. Palm Springs, California
The Saguaro Palm Springs

Swimsuit season is in full swing, and on Memorial Day weekend the temperatures in the desert are still bearable. Thus, many places offer great deals over the holiday weekend. The sun shines all the time, and there are a lot of fun vintage shops and well-known restaurants, like Copley’s on Palm Canyon, and almost too many to count.

This desert oasis with a glamorous past is also a great place to stay while visiting Joshua Tree National Park, which has miles and miles of amazing hiking trails and mountain bike treks.

On Memorial Day, it’s a good idea to stay in town because the Palm Springs Air Museum holds the Annual Memorial Day Air Fair and Flower Drop.

 

Conclusion

As long as you keep the business of Memorial Day in mind when you’re traveling in May, you should have a good experience!

Knowledge is power, so informing yourself about the best times to travel and move around the United States is the best way to ensure that you and your family have a great holiday weekend.

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