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Memorial Day may not be as famous as Thanksgiving or the Fourth of July, but it's sure got a lot going on. A new infographic from WalletHub, "Memorial Day By The Numbers" is a trove of fascinating facts and striking stats. For instance, did you know that 25 American cities claim to be the birthplace of the holiday? Or that 1.5 million people will watch the National Memorial Day Parade on TV? At the very least, it's fun trivia to hash out on your long drive — especially since, according to the report, at least 88 percent of Memorial Day travelers will be getting to their destination by car.
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The Big Memorial Day Picture
"We included every statistic we found on this holiday," said Jill Gonzalez, analyst at WalletHub. "It's a day of remembrance, but also a big eating holiday, a big travel weekend, as well as a big sales weekend. We included all this data because one category really snowballs into the next."
At first glance, it's difficult to see exactly where this snowballing happens. How does the number of home-cooking fires that occur on Memorial Day (25 percent more than average) relate to the estimated cost of Trump's Memorial Day weekend getaway to Mar-a-Lago ($3.7 million), and what do either have to do with the total number of hot dogs eaten from Memorial Day through Labor Day (7 billion total, at 818 per second).
To an extent, it all comes down to money. Memorial Day, as this fact sheet shows, has become a consumer extravaganza — and this year, we're going to spend like crazy.
A Rise in Consumer Confidence
According to the report, 41.4 percent of Americans are "likely" to take advantage of Memorial Day deals, up slightly from last year's estimate of 40.8 percent, said Gonzalez, adding that the report did not distinguish types of sales, or discriminate between online and in-store transactions.
Certainly consumers face no shortage of Memorial Day-related sales: Just about every major retailer is ushering in some kind of savings extravaganza. And while we're seeing the biggest deals on items such as home appliances, mattresses, and summer clothing, it doesn't really matter what people buy. The mere fact that they're willing to make purchases is a good sign.
"People are ready to spend and consumer confidence is high," said Gonzalez.
And brands are paying attention, not only to the fervor around sales, but the solemnity of remembrance that the holiday summons.
"While the majority of people don't want brands to engage in political conversations on social media, expressing appreciation for veterans on Memorial Day is a way for companies to acknowledge the holiday, humanize their brand, and connect with their audiences," said Scott Brandt, CMO, Sprout Social. "We expect to see even more buzz around these topics and a more substantive volume of conversation as Americans celebrate and remember — and as brands offering sales aim to bring customers in the digital and brick-and-mortar doors before the holiday weekend concludes."
Travel Is up Both by Plane and Car
People are not only ready to spend on stuff, they're ready to spend on travel. The infographic shows that 39.3 million people plan to travel over the holiday weekend — a 2.7 percent increase over last year. Most people (88.1 percent of travelers) will drive to their destination (a 2.4 percent bump from 2016); but air travel is also up, with 2.9 million people expected to travel by plane, up by 5.5 percent from 2016.
The increased interest in travel also reflects enhanced consumer confidence, Gonzalez said, adding that she was surprised that both travel by car and plane were up.
"We'd think it would be one or another," said Gonzalez. "After the tumultuous few months we've had with airlines we expected to see a dip in trips by plane, but that's not the case."
It's possible, Gonzalez adds, that one reason flight activity is so high is because people bought their tickets a while back.
"A lot of major events like weddings take place over Memorial Day, and they require a lot of early planning," said Gonzalez.
Of course, flying by plane typically means flying commercially, but not always.
Kenny Dichter, CEO of Wheels Up, a private aviation company, told NBC News that Wheels Up is seeing a 45 percent increase over past years in terms of flights booked for Memorial Day weekend — a number that he expects to grow.
As for why travel by car is also on the rise, Gonzalez suspects it has to do with the relatively low price of gas. According to AAA, the average national price of gas is currently $2.37.
"It's increased by about a dime from last year, but that's not usually enough for people to make the switch to another type of travel."
Still a High Rate of Drunk Driving
It's a bit concerning that there will be even more drivers on the road than last year, because one thing that doesn't look to be changing is the high rate of road-related accidents. WalletHub's infographic estimates that 32 percent of the nation's major roads are in "poor condition;" that 50,500 injuries will be caused by car accidents; that there will be roughly 439 fatalities, of which 44 percent will involve a drunk driver.
It's no coincidence, Gonzalez notes, that a nationwide seatbelt campaign, noted in the infographic, kicks off on May 22nd.
Seth Birnbaum, CEO and co-founder of EverQuote, told NBC News that Memorial Day weekend is one of the most dangerous times in the U.S to be on the road. Part of the problem is that drivers are a bit too sure of themselves (there's that consumer confidence again!).
"According to data pulled from our safe driving app, EverDrive, nearly everyone thinks they're a safe driver," said Birnbaum. "In reality over 95 percent of drivers use their phones behind the wheel. Unfortunately, the influx of cars on the road this weekend means there will be an influx of distracted drivers. To help prevent potential driving hazards, drivers need to remain vigilant on the road and practice safe driving habits like staying within speed limits, braking and accelerating more gently, and driving without distractions. Drivers can also use safe driving apps and the feedback they provide to ensure they’re driving safely on the roads.”