Memorial Day weekend travel: Here's what to know in Arizona

Cars drive along Piestewa Freeway, Arizona State Route 51, near the Ministack, as seen from the pedestrian bridge near Oak Street in Phoenix on May 18, 2023.

As Memorial Day weekend approaches, here is what to expect when traveling throughout Arizona.

Expected to be the third-busiest holiday weekend since 2000 in terms of travel, those with their sights set on Arizona will want to know what to expect when touching down in the Grand Canyon state.

No weekend freeway closures planned

A Valley staple will be taking its own Memorial Day vacation this weekend, as the Arizona Department of Transportation will pause the freeway closures for the holiday.

"We have established a tradition of avoiding freeway closures on holiday weekends that are associated with travel in and out of the Valley. Memorial Day weekend is one of those 'give drivers a break' times. ADOT isn't scheduling any closures over the weekend," Arizona Department of Transportation spokesman Doug Nintzel told The Arizona Republic.

Existing work zones still linger, however, including one that is guaranteed to see a lot more traffic with the increase in travel.

"Drivers should of course slow down and stay alert in existing work zones such as the ones along I-10 near Sky Harbor Airport for the Broadway Curve Improvement Project," Nintzel said.

Additionally, those heading north on Interstate 17 will want to allow plenty of extra time for travel. A work zone as part of a widening project on I-17 between Anthem Way and the Sunset Point Rest Area remains as well. Drivers are advised to "take it easy" when moving through these zones.

To ensure the utmost safety while on the road, ADOT reminded drivers to heed these tips:

  • Never drive while impaired. Buckle up and obey speed limits.

  • Arrange for a designated driver or ride service if necessary.

  • Check your vehicle, including tire pressure.

  • Get some rest before traveling. Fatigue is a serious safety risk.

  • Avoid distractions. Don’t text while driving.

  • Don’t park in areas with grasses and brush. Hot vehicle components could start a fire.

Traffic conditions can always be checked at to stay up to date.

'Get a ride. Not a DUI!'

As is custom with Memorial Day weekend, DUI task forces will be out in full effect.

Units will be out beginning Friday, ready to catch those driving under the influence or disregarding traffic and road safety laws.

Departments including the Governor's Office of Highway Safety, the Arizona Department of Public Safety and the Scottsdale, Gilbert, Mesa and Tempe police are part of the task force.

"Task force officers will contact drivers and arrest those who make the disastrous decision to drive impaired, removing them from the roadway before they hurt others or themselves. If your celebration plans for Memorial Day weekend include consuming alcoholic beverages or using marijuana, it is best to pre-arrange a sober designated driver, ride-share, or taxi," Scottsdale police said in a statement.

What can I expect at the airport?

Whether coming or going, travelers heading to Sky Harbor International Airport should be as prepared as possible when embarking on their journey.

Coming off a record-setting first quarter, Sky Harbor is expecting more of the same this weekend.

"Typically, the days shortly before and after a holiday are the busiest. So Friday, Monday and Tuesday may be some of the busier days upcoming. We have had a record-setting year through the first three months and expect more of the same moving forward," Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport public information officer Eric Everts told The Republic.

That being said, Everts recommends some key points to make sure the airport process goes by smoothly.

  • Plan ahead and reserve parking in advance.

  • Give yourself extra time. Arrive two hours (domestic) or three hours (international) before your flight.

  • Use cellphone lots and the PHX Sky Train Stations at 24th/44th Street for drop-off and pickup.

The Sky Harbor website also provides useful information for flyers, including resources on how to book parking, TSA bag requirements, and the PHX RESERVE program to alleviate some check-in stress in the future.

More information can be found here.

How's the weather for Memorial Day weekend?

If you're looking to get some sun, you're in the right place.

The forecasts from each Arizona National Weather Service office ― Flagstaff, Phoenix and Tucson ― are relatively the same, aside from the temperature.

For the high country, conditions are slated to be much drier following a bout of "unsettled weather" that swept through the north.

"It's looking dry this coming weekend, much drier conditions than what we've seen in the past week. We're not looking at really any chance of precipitation this coming weekend and high temperatures will be very close to average," said Flagstaff office meteorologist Benji Johnson.

High country temperatures through the weekend will be a breeze, hanging in the 70s with sunny and mostly clear skies. Low 70s are on tap for Flagstaff, with the lower elevations, such as Verde Valley, expected to be in the upper 80s to low 90s.

"As far as wind goes, it's looking breezy but nothing serious at all, just typical southwest breezes that we often see this time of year," Johnson said.

It will be persistent, though, as each afternoon for most of northern Arizona will receive about 15 to 25 mph wind gusts.

Both Phoenix and Tucson will see their temperatures hold steadily in the upper 90s, each with clear and sunny skies.

"Right now, we're above-normal temperature through this week, and when we get to Friday, we're gonna cool a little bit closer to our seasonal normals. It still will be in the upper 90s, looking at a high towards 97 before we start climbing back up Saturday through Sunday," Phoenix office meteorologist Jessica Leffel said.

Saturday and Sunday in the Phoenix area are projected to be about 98 degrees, with Memorial Day itself creeping up on the triple-digit mark, but likely holding steady at 99.

In Tucson, the seven-day forecast shows that a high and low of 96 and 61 degrees will prevail throughout the holiday weekend.

This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Here's what to know for Memorial Day weekend travel in Arizona