Labor Day Weekend Travel: Going on a Road Trip? The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Labor Day is near but if you’re planning a road trip for the long holiday weekend you may be stuck in heavier traffic than usual

Many people will be hitting the roads for the final summer holiday—a survey found that of the 64 percent of the respondents who plan to travel for the Labor Day weekend, 80 percent will drive to their destinations. Nearly a quarter of those not planning to travel for the holiday cited high gas prices as the reason—significantly lower than the 42 percent of respondents who cited high gas prices as their reason for staying home over the Fourth of July weekend. 

Driving the Blue Ridge Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“For many, driving is not only the most economical way to travel but the most comfortable and convenient,” said Jenni Newman, editor-in-chief. “While gas prices are still too high for some we are seeing pain at the pump ease just in time for the holiday weekend.’s survey also found that 52 percent of travelers who typically prefer to fly are now going to drive due to high ticket prices and ongoing airline disruptions. Additionally, 30 percent of respondents planning to drive say they’ve changed their destinations and are now traveling farther.

Related article: The 8 Best National Parks for a Weekend Getaway

Driving the Skyline Drive, Shenandoah National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

 The Kampgrounds of America (KOA) Monthly Research Report, August Edition, indicates that just over 25 million households plan to camp over the Labor Day weekend. Continuing the camping demand, KOA’s annual North American Camping Report, released in April, forecasted a strong shoulder season.

Observing camping respondents as a whole:

  • 58 percent said they plan to camp over the Labor Day weekend
  • 30 percent said they plan to camp for the long weekend only
  • 42 percent said they plan to extend their holiday; of this group, 22 percent expect to camp for the week (before or after Labor Day) while 21 percent of respondents would likely add extra days to their camping trip
Driving Utah Scenic Byway 12 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“Labor Day is looking to outpace Memorial Day which is often seen as the most popular camping holiday,” said Whitney Scott, chief marketing officer, KOA. “Between brightening economic conditions and the continued growth of late summer and fall camping, it’s apparent that camping isn’t just confined to a season.”

Camping at Lost Dutchman State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Looking to the fall season, respondents said that they plan to camp the same amount (30 percent) or more (25 percent) than in previous fall seasons. Twenty-two percent of respondents said they would take all or most of their camping trips this fall with 8 percent of respondents saying they would not camp this fall.

“We’ve always found fall is one of the best times to camp and campers certainly agree,” Scott shared. “Across our business, advanced deposits are up 2.1 percent with many of those reservations falling in September. Fall camping isn’t a secret anymore.”

Camping at Terre Haute KOA, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Additional insights in KOA’s August Monthly Research Report show the effect of shifting external conditions on camping, including:

  • 34 percent, said they replaced other vacation plans with camping due to inflation
  • Difficulties with air travel reflected positively on camping, with 31 percent of respondents taking more or longer camping trips due to flight challenges
  • 28 percent said they plan to book more camping trips in response to negative non-camping travel experiences

Related article: Why are RVs So Popular?

Tucson/Lazydays KOA, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

AAA is expecting the Labor Day holiday weekend travel volume to return to near pre-pandemic levels as it did for the Memorial Day and Independence Day holiday weekends earlier this summer, according to a news release.

AAA anticipates the peak travel time will be Friday afternoon, September 2 when commuters mix with travelers, especially those heading to coastal areas. Traffic is also expected to be heavy late Monday afternoon as travelers return home from the long weekend, the release said. To avoid Labor Day weekend traffic, AAA is encouraging drivers who have the flexibility to travel at off-peak hours.

Related article: The Best Lakeside Camping Destinations 

Camping at Goose Bay State Park, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Transportation analytics company INRIX says travelers can expect delays as early as today but traffic shouldn’t be as bad as on other holiday weekends. 

“There’s not going to be as much travel as Fourth of July or Memorial Day and not as much traffic congestion on the roads during that time too,” Bob Pishue, transportation analyst for INRIX said.

If you’re planning for a road trip this holiday weekend, here is what to know:

Driving Newfound Gap Road, Great Smoky Mountains National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When is the best time to leave for Labor Day weekend?

All times are local:

  • Thursday: Before 12:00 p.m. or after 7:00 p.m.
  • Friday: Before 1:00 p.m. or after 7:00 p.m.
  • Saturday: Before 1:00 p.m. or after 5:00 p.m.
  • Sunday and Monday are expected to have normal to minimal congestion. 
Driving U.S. Highway 89 between Flagstaff and Page, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When is the worst time to leave for Labor Day weekend?

“Thursday, like three-to-four o’clock (p.m.) is probably the worst time to leave,” Pishue said. “That’s when you get commuters and people running errands, mixing with vacationers and schools getting out if they’re in session.”

All times are local:

  • Thursday: 1:00-8:00 p.m.
  • Friday: 11:00 a.m.-8:00 p.m.
  • Saturday: 12:00-5:00 p.m.

Pishue added what could help ease the pain on the road is taking state highways as opposed to an interstate highway. 

“It might take you a little bit longer but it’ll be much less stressful and maybe more scenic depending on where you are,” he said. 

Related article: On Camping and Spending Time in Nature

Georgia Welcome Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worst travel times in major US cities

If you plan on traveling to a major city or leaving one, you could be stuck in heavier traffic than normal. Here’s where and when it could be a nightmare in those cities, according to INRIX.

All times are local:


  • Worst corridor: I-85 South, Clairmont Road to MLK Jr. Drive
  • Worst day: Friday
  • Worst time: 2:00-4:00 p.m.
  • Peak travel time increase: 120 percent
Massachusetts State House, Boston © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved


  • Worst corridor: I-93 South, Albany Street to MA-24
  • Worst day: Thursday
  • Worst time: 1:45-3:45 p.m.
  • Peak travel time increase: 89 percent


  • Worst corridor: I-290 West, Morgan Street to Wolf Road
  • Worst day: Thursday
  • Worst time: 4:30-6:30 p.m.
  • Peak travel time increase: 133 percent


  • Worst corridor: I-96 West, 6 Mile Road to Walled Lake
  • Worst day: Friday
  • Worst time: 3:00-5:00 p.m.
  • Peak travel time increase: 66 percent
Kemah Boardwalk south of Houston © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved


  • Worst corridor: I-69 North, I-610 to I-10
  • Worst day: Friday
  • Worst time: 3:30-5:30 p.m.
  • Peak travel time increase: 76 percent

Los Angeles

  • Worst corridor: I-5 South, Colorado Street to Florence Avenue
  • Worst day: Friday
  • Worst time: 4:45-6:45 p.m.
  • Peak travel time increase: 138 percent

New York

  • Worst corridor: I-278 East, I-495 to 38th Street
  • Worst day: Thursday
  • Worst time: 3:00-5:00 p.m.
  • Peak travel time increase: 143 percent

San Francisco

  • Worst corridor: I-80 West, Gilman Street to Civic Center
  • Worst day: Thursday
  • Worst time: 4:15-6:15 p.m.
  • Peak travel time increase: 98 percent
La Connor north of Seattle © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved


  • Worst corridor: I-5 South, WA-18 to WA-7
  • Worst day: Friday
  • Worst time: 4:15-6:15 p.m.
  • Peak travel time increase: 77 percent

Washington, D.C.

  • Worst corridor: I-95 South, I-495 to VA-123
  • Worst day: Wednesday
  • Worst time: 3:45-5:45 p.m. 
  • Peak travel time increase: 56 percent

Worth Pondering…

Speed was high

Weather was hot

Tires were thin

X marks the spot

—Burma Shave sign