May 26, 2023 - Transit

Memorial Day travel in the Twin Cities may be cheaper this year

Data: GasBuddy. Note: Price as of the 1st of each month. Chart: Axios Visuals

This weekend's Memorial Day road trips in Minnesota should be cheaper than last year.

Driving the news: Twin Cities drivers have paid an average of $3.50 per gallon of regular gasoline in May, down from $4.20 a year ago.

Why it matters: Millions in Minnesota and the surrounding states will hit the road — or skies — for the unofficial kickoff of summer, marking the region's third-busiest Memorial Day weekend since 2001.

  • AAA estimates that 3.5 million residents of the West North Central, an area that includes both Minnesota and Iowa, will travel at least 50 miles.
  • That's 264,000 more people than last year and only 79,000 less than in 2019, per AAA.

The big picture: Gas prices set record all-time highs last year amid a broader inflation crisis. The spike was driven in part by Russia's invasion of Ukraine, which destabilized global energy markets.

Zoom out: Gas prices nationally are rising slightly compared to previous months — but they're still well below last year's levels as we head into Memorial Day weekend and the travel-heavy summer season.

Yes, but: Gas is still costing well above pre- and mid-pandemic levels.

What we're watching: AAA and others are predicting near-record travel this summer, which could spike demand — and thus lead to higher prices — in the warmer months.

  • "It's possible this is merely the lull before Memorial Day, but it could be a trend that lingers into summer," AAA spokesperson Andrew Gross said in a statement.

Between the lines: The EPA issued an emergency waiver last month allowing the summertime sale of gasoline blended with 15% ethanol in a bid to suppress prices.

  • So-called E15 gas is typically avoided in summer due to smog concerns.

Be smart: If you are hitting the road this weekend, you might want to check MnDOT's summer construction rundown to plan your route (or mentally prepare for delays).

Our thought bubble: Fill up before you go and put those gas savings toward a great treat on the road on your way to the cabin — or wherever your destination might be.

  • Northern Waters in Duluth is a must-stop for us when going up the North Shore.
  • If you're going to the Arrowhead, we recommend Duluth Grill. If you're going to Northern Wisconsin, Moccasin Bar in Hayward is an experience.
  • We always stop at Palisade Head when traveling to Grand Marais. The scenic overlook is right off Highway 61, a great place to stretch your legs.
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