6 travel tips for spending Memorial Day weekend

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The third summer of the pandemic is upon us, and travelers seem ready to venture out in greater numbers than they have in the past two years — starting with Memorial Day weekend.

According to an AAA forecast, 39.2 million people are expected to travel over the holiday weekend, 3 million more than last year but still fewer than before the pandemic. Experts believe travelers are just getting started.

“Memorial Day is always a strong predictor of what’s to come for summer travel,” Paula Twidale, senior vice president of AAA Travel, said in a statement. “According to our projections, summer travel isn’t just heating up, it’s going to be on fire.”

A Washington Post-Schar School poll found that 72% of Americans say they will “definitely” or “probably” take a summer trip. And this despite the high prices of gasoline, hotels and plane tickets which are “major factors” for the majority of holidaymakers. In contrast, less than 3 in 10 Americans say the coronavirus is a major factor in their vacation decision-making.

Gas prices are a much bigger factor than covid for summer travel, survey finds

“The pandemic has kind of facilitated a shift in the way people think about travel,” said Nathan Line, associate professor of hospitality and tourism marketing at Florida State University’s Dedman College of Hospitality. “If you have the time and the money, why postpone it? Especially if you might have a few quarantine years under your belt and haven’t been able to travel and there’s some extra money saved up for that sort of thing.

Here are six things to remember ahead of Memorial Day and the summer travel season.

Expect crowds – everywhere

Transportation Security Administration spokesman R. Carter Langston said in an email that the agency expects about 2.1 million passengers each day between Thursday and Memorial Day. By comparison, an average of around 1.8 million people traveled each day during the same holiday period last year.

“With travel volumes reaching and in some cases exceeding 2019 levels, it will be a busy weekend at airports across the country,” he wrote. “The TSA encourages travelers to arrive early enough to park, check in, check their bags, clear security and get to their gates.”

A guide to your best summer vacation

Delta Air Lines said summer travelers should plan to arrive two hours early for domestic travel and three hours for international flights. Some overwhelmed airports are urging passengers to plan for even more cushion: Austin-Bergstrom International Airport said passengers should show up 2.5 hours earlier for domestic flights.

Nearly 35 million people are expected to travel by car over the holiday weekend, AAA said. Using data from transport analytics firm INRIX, the group said travelers should expect the longest delays on Thursday and Friday afternoons.

“Even with a significant increase in gasoline prices, we expect a sharp increase in vacation driving compared to recent years,” Bob Pishue, transportation analyst at Inrix, said in a statement.

The worst times to travel this weekend, according to forecasts, are 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday; 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. Friday; 1 to 6 p.m. Saturday and 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday and Monday. The best times are after 9 p.m. on Thursday, before 7 a.m. or after 9 p.m. on Friday, before 10 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday and before 11 a.m. on Monday.

Holidays are very expensive now, but you can find ways to save

Travel-booking app Hopper said its data shows domestic airfares this holiday weekend will cost an average of $394 for a round-trip flight; that’s 28% higher than the same time in 2019. According to federal economic data, air fares in April were 33% higher than a year earlier.

Lindsay Schwimer, consumer travel expert at Hopper, said those prices should continue to rise seasonally next month, peaking at around $410 or $420 for round-trip domestic flights.

Hotels over Memorial Day weekend will average $163 a night, Hopper said, up more than 30% year-over-year. Rates aren’t much lower for the summer, averaging $154 a night, up 36% from last year, Schwimer said.

She said the flexibility on destinations and dates can help travelers find deals that stick around – and therefore can push a trip back to late August or early fall.

Harder to hack: Rising gas prices. The national average for a gallon of gasoline on Thursday was $4.60, according to AAA, up from about $3.03 a year ago.

Apps and tools like GasBuddy, Waze and Google Maps can help travelers find cheaper gas. Line, who lives in Tallahassee, said he plans to refuel in Georgia rather than Florida for a comparative discount on a road trip.

A majority of Americans are also concerned about gasoline prices. The poll, conducted by The Post and George Mason University’s Schar School of Policy and Government, found that 61% of Americans say gas prices are a “major factor” in planning their summer vacation. ‘summer. Fifty-four percent said hotel or accommodation prices played a major role, and 52% said the same about flight prices.

Be strategic when renting a car

The price of a rental car has actually fallen from a year ago, AAA said, but prices are still quite high due to a shortage of vehicles.

Experts said travelers should first consider booking a rental car once they know their travel plans to ensure there will be one available. Flexibility is key; renters may need to pick up a car from a location away from a busy airport. If car rental companies are too expensive, you might have better luck with peer-to-peer apps like Turo.

The rental car “apocalypse” is not over. Here’s what you need to know before booking.

And travelers should keep an eye on prices once they’ve locked a car. If rates drop, they can rebook at lower prices.

Data tracked by The Washington Post shows new infections, hospitalizations and deaths are all on the rise – although experts warn that official case counts don’t tell the whole story because they don’t include many home tests .

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently said all domestic travelers should “consider getting tested as close to departure time as possible.” Prior to that, the agency had only recommended testing for domestic travel if people were not up to date on their coronavirus vaccines.

Are you traveling to the United States soon? Get tested before your trip, says the CDC.

Know that the mandate of the mask is over

Travelers are no longer required by federal authorities to wear a mask at airports, on airplanes and on other means of transportation. Health care providers still recommend masking in airports and on airplanes. For those concerned about navigating flights without a mask, etiquette experts offer tips for politely asking a neighbor to mask up or cover their sneeze or cough here.

There is still a labor shortage

Summer travelers shouldn’t expect a hitch-free vacation, especially as the travel industry remains understaffed and customer service takes a hit.

On Thursday, Delta said it would reduce service by approximately 100 flights per day between July 1 and August 7 to “strengthen the resilience of our system and improve operational reliability for our customers and employees.”

Braving the crowds and paying high prices will be only part of the challenge of summer vacation, as The Washington Post reported this spring: Travelers should expect their rooms to be cleaned less frequently, than restaurant service suffers and flights are delayed or cancelled.

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