DC Memorial Day travel gets underway: Here’s what you need to know

Whether by car or plane, D.C. area travelers are headed out of town early this Memorial Day weekend — especially as fast-moving severe weather looks to complicate trip plans.

AAA predicted that over 865,000 people in the D.C. area will travel 50 miles or more from home for the holiday.

Everything you need to know:

As for air travel, AAA is forecasting that there will be nearly 78,000 locals taking a trip by plane, which the auto club said would be up over 20% compared to 2021.

Road trippers

A majority of vacationers are doing so by car for Memorial Day weekend, and there’s one concern on all of their minds: gas prices.

“It’s unfortunate, but we’re still going,” said Cecelia Gallagher, who spoke with WTOP’s Valerie Bonk at a gas station just before the Chesapeake Bay Bridge on Route 50 in Maryland.

High gas prices were an unwelcome part of the Memorial Day getaway for drivers, but they weren’t making them abandon their plans. (WTOP/Valerie Bonk)

Kenneth Kirby, from Virginia, was one of those hundreds of thousands of drivers that AAA expected to hit the road for their holiday trip. He wasn’t thrilled about the record-high gas prices either.

“Oh yeah, just like everyone else is,” Kirby said, but added it’s not stopping his getaway.

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Mark Doll wasn’t heading east across the Bay Bridge for beach trip, but for work.

He’d already driven nearly 50 miles when he spoke with WTOP, and said the gas prices are unfortunate, but added: “What are you going to do about it? It is crazy but what are you going to do about it?”

Heading to the beach? Best times to travel the Bay Bridge

Overall, an expected 330,000 vehicles are expected to cross the Bay Bridge this weekend and drivers are being told to expect delays and to travel during off-peak times if they can.

According to the Maryland Transportation Authority, the best times to travel the Bay Bridge on Memorial Day weekend are:

  • Thursday, May 26 – before 10 a.m. and after 9 p.m.
  • Friday, May 27 – before 8 a.m. and after 9 p.m.
  • Saturday, May 28 – before 8 a.m. and after 4 p.m.
  • Sunday, May 29 – before 11 a.m. and after 9 p.m.
  • Memorial Day Monday, May 30 – before 9 a.m. and after 11 p.m.

While road crews implement two-way operations on the bridge to ease eastbound delays, two-way operations are prohibited during bad weather. Storms are in the forecast Friday, “increasing the likelihood of extensive eastbound delays,” MDTA said on Twitter.

Travelers could also consider switching up their route, using the Interstate 95 northern route and crossing the Tydings Bridge to get to the Eastern Shore.

Catching a flight

There were a number of delays and cancellations at D.C.-area airports Friday morning, as severe weather moved into the region.

At Reagan National Airport, Dulles, and BWI Marshall International Airport, there were several flight delays and cancellations Friday morning.

The entire WTOP listening area remains under a tornado warning until 2 p.m. Friday afternoon.

The severe weather was not only throwing a wrench in flight plans for some travelers — but also a dent in their wallets.

A man going to pick up his daughter from Nashville told WTOP’s Neal Augenstein that he had to pay extra to switch to an earlier flight out of Dulles International Airport in Loudoun County, Virginia.

“United (Airlines) actually sent me a note to my phone, to let me know (my flight) was gonna get canceled later today because of the storms, to rebook. So, it cost me an extra 200 bucks to fly out this morning and miss the storm, but I gotta get there.”

Others who skipped out on a Memorial Day trip last year told WTOP that they booked early this year. However, concerns about COVID-19 have a mother of two heading to Texas worried about flying without masks.

“Masks and everything were required in October on the plane,” the mother said about her last flight. “Now I’m very uncomfortable having two small children and people not wearing masks.”

WTOP’s Neal Augenstein and Valerie Bonk contributed to this report.

Matthew Delaney

Matt Delaney is a digital web writer/editor who joined WTOP in 2020.

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