Travelers wrestle with price hikes

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(CNN) – Gas prices and Covid cases are high as the US enters Memorial Day weekend and the busy summer travel season.

The tangled web of global restrictions is still in play, but most Americans are planning to get out of the house this summer.

According to the American Travel Association, about six in 10 Americans plan at least one summer trip.

Gas prices are definitely a factor. US Travel reports that 63% of US travelers say higher gas prices will affect their decision to travel in the next six months.

That’s certainly the case for Eric Stevens, a single dad in Los Angeles who decided he wasn’t going anywhere. He spends about $180 a week on gas to meet his daily obligations.

He and his children usually choose a destination within one tank of gas from their home in Encino.

“We’re done with Tahoe, San Francisco, Carpenteria, and Santa Barbara,” Stevens said. “There’s no way I can afford it this weekend.”

They wanted to visit Lake Havasu in Arizona this year, but the necessities are like a winning daycare.

“My dad canceled the fun because of inflation,” Stevens wrote for CNN. CNN’s Pete Montaigne told CNN he feels like he’s depriving his younger children of the kinds of travel experiences and memories his older children had.

Wildwood, along a New Jersey beach, was preparing to welcome the crowds days before Memorial Day weekend in 2021.

Spencer Platt / Getty Images

“This is probably one of the most expensive Memorial Day travel we’ve ever seen,” Andrew Gross, a spokesperson for travel organization AAA, told Muntean.

Of the more than 39 million people AAA expects to travel over the weekend, nearly 35 million will drive.

The percentage of travelers who actually plan to drive fell — from 92.1% last year to 88.9% this year — “a slight indication that price hikes at the pump are having an impact on how people choose to travel on this Memorial Day,” the AAA said in its forecast.

High prices everywhere

It’s not just gas prices.

CNN reader Sherry Brown, who has been dreaming of a trip to Montana for years, wrote: “My rent has gone up, gas prices have gone up.

The average daily price of hotels in the US for the week ending May 21 rose more than 13% compared to a similar week in 2019, before the pandemic. Miami had the highest rate of increase during 2019, with a 42% increase in the average daily rate.

Although prices are rising as the peak summer travel season approaches, many travelers are pressing ahead with ambitious plans.

Lisa Blades, a property manager in Montecito, California, is going to Paris with her best friend of 55 years and their daughters, a trip they’ve been talking about for decades.

International destinations, including Paris, remain attractive despite the higher prices.

International destinations, including Paris, remain attractive despite the higher prices.

Martin’s office/AFP via Getty Images

“Ya va!” She wrote, telling CNN that they would take part in it, despite the “multiple layers of adversity.”

“I’m talking about Covid here, plus the huge cost of air travel, the war in Europe, and the controversy across 3 university timetables, not to mention my first vacation from work in 5 years.”

They have chosen a more cost-effective rental property over hotel rooms and will be heading to Paris in August, even though most of the city will be on vacation.

Blades and her daughter are traveling to Paris via Ireland because it’s cheaper than a non-stop flight. They depart from San Francisco, and charge another $700 in airfare to $4,196 for the transatlantic portion of their trip.

Kathleen Bangs, a former airline pilot and a spokeswoman for FlightAware, said flight prices have gone up “on the whole.”

“If you see a cheap fare that you like, book it! You have 24 hours to change your mind, but in the same amount of time, the price may go up, or the seat may be gone,” she said.

Tips for smoother summer air travel

Travel experts anticipate a chaotic travel season, with air travelers likely to experience a lot of turmoil as airlines scramble to meet demand amid a host of operational challenges.
Delta Air Lines on Thursday cited “monitoring weather and air traffic, hiring vendors, and increasing Covid-19.” Case rates contribute to an increase in unscheduled-than-planned absences in some workgroups” as factors in its decision to cancel nearly 100 daily departures in July and early August.

AAA says 3 million people are expected to fly over Memorial Day weekend. This number is close to 2019 levels and represents a 25% increase over last year.

Here are some additional tips from FlightAware’s Kathleen Bang for smoother flights this weekend and beyond:

Book early morning flights. This increases your chances of getting a later flight in the event of significant delays or cancellations.

Book with at least 2 hours between connecting flights. Tight connections may leave you stuck.

• Check the departure airport’s website and Twitter feed. They often share useful information about construction projects affecting operations and long safety lines.

Check the airline’s website for travel waivers. Sometimes you can easily change your flight when delays and cancellations may occur. Case in point: Delta issued a waiver Thursday to mark Memorial Day weekend.

• Check your credit card’s travel coverage. Premium card holders often have insurance that can cover expenses such as meals and accommodation in the event of a delay or cancellation.

Bangs also noted that some airlines have lowered baggage weight limits, so it’s a good idea to check and weigh your bag at home.

And packing the mask makes sense.

Bangs noted a set of unfortunate circumstances for passengers flying into Washington’s Reagan National Airport last weekend, which kept them on planes for an additional five hours.

With Covid cases spreading in so many areas, spending too much time indoors carries additional risks.

And while masks are not currently required at US airports and on US airlines, the CDC still recommends them on public transportation. Some airlines and international destinations still require this.

Everyone is ready for some much-needed rest and relaxation this summer. A little advance planning can help set the stage for what may be a bumpy road.

TOP PHOTO: Travelers pass through the lobby at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport on the eve of Memorial Day 2021 weekend (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

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