Steven Mrozek is spending Memorial Day in Normandy.
“I’m in Germany right now,” said the U.S. Army Veteran from Fraser and former national historian of the 82nd Airborne Division Association. “I just did a tour across Europe of all the historical military sites. You can read about history but there’s nothing like visiting the place where it all happened.”
Mrozek, who also serves as executive director of the Selfridge Military Air Museum, is one more than 1.2 million Michiganders traveling for Memorial Day weekend, a number just shy of pre-pandemic levels.
According to AAA’s 2023 forecast for the holiday that honors those who lost their lives while defending their country and marks the start of summer, most will journey 50 miles or more, which is 79,000 more than last year and just 36,000 less than before COVID brought an end to travel in 2020.
“Memorial Day weekend is the kickoff to what promises to be a very busy summer travel season,” said Debbie Haas, vice-president of travel for AAA — The Auto Club Group, in a news release. “Despite various inflationary pressures, consumer spending is strong and Americans still want to travel.”
Some of the national figures show that while still behind pre-pandemic levels American’s passion for traveling is on the rise.
Overall national travel figures from AAA’s report shows:
—Total Travelers — AAA projects 42.3 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home this Memorial Day weekend. That’s 2.7 million (+7%) more travelers than last year, but fewer people than what was reported in 2019 (42.8 million) and 2005 (44 million).
—Air travel — Despite higher ticket prices, demand for flights is soaring. AAA predicts the strongest air travel numbers since 2005. Nearly 3.4 million travelers are expected to fly for the holiday weekend. That’s 33,700 (11%) more passengers than last year, and 170,000 (5.4%) more than in 2019.
—Airfares — Travelers are paying more for Memorial Day trips this year, in large part due to the rising cost of airline tickets. AAA booking data shows a 40% increase in airfares to this year’s top destinations.
—Auto travel — Memorial Day road trips are up 6% from last year. An estimated 37.1 million Americans will drive to their destinations. That’s 2 million more than last year, but 500,000 fewer than 2019 numbers. Driving remains the preferred mode of transportation for 88% of holiday travelers.
—Gas prices — Gas prices have moved lower in recent weeks, yet It’s too early to know if that downward trend will continue in the lead-up to the summer kick-off. However, it’s unlikely that prices will come anywhere near the state average that holiday travelers paid last year of $4.60 per gallon.
—Best time to travel — The Memorial Day holiday is defined as the five-day period that began Thursday and runs through Monday, May 29. According to INRIX, a company that analyzes traffic and transportation data, Friday will be the busiest day on the roads. The best time to travel by car during the holiday weekend, will be in the morning or evening after 6 p.m. The lightest traffic days will be Saturday and Sunday.
AAA’s report also showed an increased demand for iconic cities, international vacation packages like Mrozek’s trip to Europe and domestic cruises.
Tourist hot spots for Memorial Day weekend included Orlando, New York City and Las Vegas
Other popular destinations in the U.S. include Denver, Boston, Anaheim and Canton, Ohio, which is home to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Americans were also booking more time on domestic cruise ships. Cruise port cities such as Florida and Alaska, as well as Seattle reported domestic cruise bookings have increased by 50% from last year.
International travel is also hot with bookings 250% higher this holiday weekend compared to this time in 2022. Among the most popular cities for travel are Rome, Paris, Dublin, London, Barcelona and Athens.
AAA found that International Driving Permits this year were almost double what they were last year. However, the pickup in international travel has resulted in a backlog for passport processing.
The historical military tours that Mrozek arranges through Selfridge Military Air Museum take groups to historic military destinations around the world but similar experiences can also be found closer to home.
“We have some really great places right here in Michigan,” Mrozek said, including the air museum Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Harrison Township where many retired airmen and aviation enthusiasts volunteer their time to support the museum and its efforts to educate and inspire future generations.
“A visit to a museum prompts kids to ask questions about how things work,” said Mrozek, who has done more than his share of school visits as a former Army paratrooper, “or how something has impacted their lives or their parents and grandparent’s lives.”
“It’s a lot of bang for your buck,” said Tom Demerly, of the Selfridge museum, which not only boasts an impressive collection of historic aircraft but artifacts and interactive displays like climbing into the cockpit of an F-16 fighter jet.
“There’s also the Air Zoo,” Mrozek said of the world class Smithsonian-affiliated aerospace and science museum near Kalamazoo. “It’s really nice.”
It has over 100 air and space artifacts, inspiring interactive exhibits, full-motion flight simulators, indoor amusement park rides and hands-on, science-based camps and classes.
The Henry Ford and Greenfield Village in Dearborn is another destination families will take in during Memorial Day weekend.
“If you could only visit one museum it should be this one,” Demerly said, admitting it’s pricey but definitely worth the trip. “They’ve done a marvelous job of reinventing themselves.”
The museum offers something for visitors of all ages, from the first car that Henry Ford built to historical inventions and the Jackson House, a new addition to the grounds, which served as a safe haven for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and others who worked, collaborated, strategized and planned the Selma-to-Montgomery marches of 1965.
Parade goers this Memorial Day are also in for a treat as it’s not only the laughter of clowns, honking horns and fire truck sirens that they will hear. As a special treat pilots with the Yankee Air Museum will be doing flyovers at local Memorial Day parades including St. Clair Shores on May 28.
On this day the parade route will rumble with the sounds of the iconic planes that flew during World War II including a B25 bomber known as “Rosies Reply” and a C47 troop transport named Hairless Joe.
The Yankee Air Museum will also be offering rides in the C47 aircraft at the Roush Aeronautics Center at Willow Run Airport in Van Buren Charter Township. To book a seat in advance visit yankeeairmuseum.org/fly/#c47,
If it’s a helicopter ride that you seek to experience, Yankee Air Museum will be offering Huey helicopter rides during Milford’s Memorial Day activities. Cost for the 10-minute ride is $125 but no reservation is required, just walk up to the staging area at Carl’s Family YMCA at 300 Family Dr., in Milford.
“With the doors wide open and the wind rushing over your face, a Huey ride is an experience you’ll never forget,” said Brenda Kerfoot, communications coordinator for the Yankee Air Museum. “Come and see how a Huey operates and then decide if a ride is for you.”
Those wishing to keep their feet on the ground can also visit the vast displays at the Yankee Air Museum. The nonprofit organization established in 1981, dedicates itself and its space to educating individuals through the history of American aeronautics, aerospace industry and its associated technologies, while inspiring generations through personal experiences at the museum.
“I think being able to see these historical resources around the state tells a story that goes largely untold in traditional history studies,” said Demerly.
Operation military museum
Whether it’s a weekend trip or a day trip there are a number of military museums across the state that offer visitors a variety of displays and interactive activities. Some are free and some require costs that help to support the facility. Many of these museums are also located in communities that will be serving up festivals and other activities for travelers throughout the summer.
Selfridge Military Air Museum
Selfridge Air National Guard Base
Selfridge ANGB, Harrison Township
Yankee Air Museum
47884 D St., in Belleville
The Tuskegee Airmen National Historical Museum
6325 West Jefferson Ave., Detroit, [email protected]
Michigan Military Technical & Historical Society
16600 Stephens Rd., in Eastpointe
Michigan’s Military & Space Heroes Museum
1250 Weiss St., Frankenmuth
Air Zoo Flight Innovation Center
6151 Portage Road, Portage
Air Zoo Flight Discovery Center
3101 E. Milham Rd., Kalamazoo
Michigan History Museum
702 West Kalamazoo St., Lansing
USS LST-393 Veterans Museum
560 Mart St., Muskegon
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