RHODE ISLAND — Memorial Day 2022 could end up being the biggest in years for travelers to Rhode Island and the United States.
The coronavirus pandemic has mostly sidelined the traditional unofficial start to summer in 2020, and vacation travel has come back strong in 2021.
But this year, Memorial Day should be even bigger. AAA predicts an 8% increase in travel — the second highest year-over-year increase since 2010 — even with gas prices nearing $5, higher airfares and a variant of extremely contagious coronavirus circulating at high levels.
“AAA projects 39.2 million people will travel 50 miles or more for the vacation,” the travel organization said in its annual Memorial Day forecast. “The bulk of holiday travelers will be driving, with nearly 35 million people taking the road, or about 89% of all travellers. Air travel will increase 25% from last year, totaling more than 3 million. Trips in the other category, bus, train or cruise ship, will increase by 300%, with more than one million travellers.”
If you’re preparing to hit the road — or the sky, or the rails — this week, here’s what to look for in Rhode Island and beyond this Memorial Day weekend:
On Tuesday, average gas prices hovered between $4.69 and $4.76 a gallon in Providence, Bristol, Newport and Block Island.
Even if you go outside of Rhode Island, every state in New England had an average gasoline price above about $4.6 a gallon, according to AAA. You won’t find gas below $4.50 a gallon in any neighboring state unless you head to West Virginia or Ohio.
The price hike will likely continue over the holiday weekend due to higher demand and lower supply, according to AAA.
Relief might come locally, but it probably won’t be until Memorial Day. Rhode Island lawmakers plan to suspend the gasoline tax until the end of 2022. The bill, sponsored by state Rep. James McLaughlin (D-Cumberland), was ordered into committee on May 5 May for further study.
Connecticut suspended its 25-cent gasoline tax until June, but that hasn’t resulted in much lower prices. At the nearest stations near the tri-state border off I-395, the cheapest gasoline was $4.67 a gallon on Tuesday. That’s about the same price as in nearby Webster, according to GasBuddy.
AAA expects Thursday and Friday to be the busiest driving days of the weekend, and Thursday the busiest at TF Green International Airport and other local airports.
A good way to avoid traffic jams during Memorial Day is to check RIDOT Live Traffic Cameraswhich show traffic footage on some of Rhode Island’s busiest roads and highways.
But if you don’t want to drive, public transport offers an alternative. RIPTA bus and ferry services will operate on a Sunday schedule on Memorial Day, as will the MBTA commuter train which stops in Providence.
Coronavirus cases in Rhode Island and around New England are currently at high levels due to the omicron ba.2 subvariant.