May 23, 2024 - Travel

Oregon roads and airways will be busy this Memorial Day

Illustration of a U.S. flag suitcase with a pair of aviator glasses on it

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Memorial Day weekend marks the start of the summer travel season — and in Oregon, it's expected to break records.

Why it matters: AAA predicts travel over the weekend will increase 4% year-over-year and rank as the second busiest on record and the busiest in nearly two decades.

  • The increases demonstrate how travel is rebounding as the pandemic moves further from mind.

By the numbers: Nearly 600,000 Oregonians are headed out of town over the next few days — destinations including Bend, Eugene and Anaheim, California, are top of list, according to AAA.

  • 494,000 people will drive to their Memorial Day destinations, and they also will find Oregon gas prices slightly higher compared to a year ago, according to a GasBuddy analysis.
  • The best time to travel by car on Friday is before 11am and after 8pm; for those returning home on Monday, plan to leave after 7pm to avoid traffic on most highways, per AAA.

The intrigue: The Port of Portland, which operates the area's international airport, anticipates Friday to be the busiest travel day, with 57,000 passengers going through security checkpoints — a 17% increase over 2023 numbers, according to officials.

Flashback: Memorial Day was originally called "Decoration Day" and was recognized as early as right after the end of the Civil War.

  • The history of Memorial Day is the subject of longstanding academic debate, with dozens of cities and towns claiming to be the holiday's birthplace, Axios' Jennifer A. Kingson reports.
  • The focus of the holiday shifted after World War I to honor American soldiers who died in any war, not only the Civil War, according to History.com.

Reality check: Because Memorial Day is a solemn day to remember fallen service members, the Wounded Warrior Project advises people to say: "Have a meaningful Memorial Day," not "Happy Memorial Day."

  • The group said it's "not appropriate to thank a service member for their service on this day, as it is a day for remembering and honoring those who made the ultimate sacrifice."
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