Traveling on Memorial Day: 6 tips to help you get through it

Placeholder while loading article actions

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

According to AAA forecasts, 39.2 million people are expected to travel over the weekend, up 3 million from last year but still less than it was before the pandemic. Experts believe travelers are just getting started.

“Memorial Day is always a good indicator of what’s to come for summer travel,” Paula Tweedall, senior vice president of AAA Travel, said in a statement. “Based on our predictions, summer travel isn’t just hotter, it’s going to be blazing.”

A Washington Post Shar School poll shows that 72 percent of Americans say they “certainly” or “likely” Go on a summer trip. This is despite the high prices of gas, hotels and flights, which are “key factors” for the majority of vacationers. In contrast, fewer than 3 in 10 Americans say the coronavirus is a major factor in vacation decisions.

A poll finds that gas prices are a much bigger factor than the coronavirus in summer travel

“This pandemic has facilitated a change in the way people think about travel,” said Nathan Lane, associate professor of hospitality and tourism marketing at Florida State University’s Dedman School of Hospitality. If you have the time and money, why put it off? Especially if you’ve had a few years of quarantine under your belt and haven’t been able to travel and there’s some extra money saved for that kind of thing.”

Here are six things to remember for 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 per day between Thursday and Memorial Day. By comparison, an average of 1.8 million people traveled per day during the same vacation period last year.

“With travel volumes reaching and in some cases exceeding 2019 levels, this is going to be a busy weekend at airports across the country,” he wrote. “The TSA encourages travelers to arrive in sufficient time to park, check-in, check their bags, pass through the security checkpoint and reach their gates.”

A guide to the best summer vacation

Delta Airlines said summer travelers should plan to arrive two hours early for domestic flights and three hours for international flights. Some overcrowded airports are urging passengers to plan for more protection: Austin-Bergstrom International Airport said passengers should arrive two and a half hours earlier on domestic flights.

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

“Even with the significant increase in gas prices, we expect a significant jump in holiday driving compared to the past few years,” Bob Peshaw, transportation analyst at Enrix, said in a statement.

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

Vacations are now painfully expensive, but you can discover ways to save

Travel booking app Huber said its data shows the average prices for domestic airfares this weekend will be $394 for a round trip; That’s 28 percent higher than the same period in 2019. According to federal economic data, airfares in April were 33 percent higher than a year earlier.

Those prices are expected to continue rising seasonally until next month, peaking at about $410 or $420 for domestic round-trip flights, said Lindsey Schwimmer, a consumer travel expert at Huber.

Hooper said hotels over Memorial Day weekend will cost an average of $163 per night, up more than 30 percent year over year. Prices aren’t much lower in the summer, Schwimmer said, averaging $154 a night — 36 percent higher than last year.

She said flexibility in destinations and timings could help travelers find remaining deals — as well as push a trip into late August or early fall.

Hardest hack: rising gas prices. The national average for a gallon of gas Thursday was $4.60, according to AAA, compared to about $3.03 a year ago.

Apps and tools like GasBuddy, Waze, and Google Maps can help travelers find cheaper fuel. Lane, who lives in Tallahassee, said he plans to fill up on the waters in Georgia rather than Florida for a comparable discount on a road trip.

Likewise, the majority of Americans are concerned about gas prices. The poll, conducted by The Post and George Mason University’s Schar School of Politics and Government, found that 61 percent of Americans say gas prices are a “key factor” in making their summer vacation plans. Fifty-four percent said hotel or lodging prices play a major factor, and 52 percent said the same about airfares.

Be strategic when renting a car

AAA said the price of a rental car has actually decreased compared to last year, but prices are still somewhat high due to the lack of cars.

Experts said travelers should consider booking a rental car first once they know their travel plans to make sure one is available. Flexibility is the key. Renters may need to pick up a car far from a busy airport. If car rental companies are too expensive, you may have better luck with peer-to-peer apps like Turo.

Rental cars “end of the world” is not over yet. Here’s what you need to know before you book.

Passengers must monitor fares as soon as the car is locked. If prices drop, they can rebook at lower rates.

Data tracked by the Washington Post shows that new infections, hospitalizations and deaths are on the rise — even as experts warn that the number of official cases doesn’t tell the full story because it doesn’t include many home tests.

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

Traveling in the US soon? The CDC says, get tested before your flight.

Be aware that the mask mandate has expired

Federal authorities no longer require travelers to wear masks at airports, planes and other modes of transportation. Health care providers still recommend masking in airports and planes. For those concerned about commuting on flights without masks, etiquette experts offer tips on politely asking a neighbor to hide or cover their sneezes or coughs here.

There is still a labor shortage

Summer travelers should not expect their vacations to be without a hitch, especially since the travel industry continues to be understaffed and customer service has been hit.

On Thursday, Delta announced that it will cut service by about 100 flights per day between July 1 and August 7 “to build additional flexibility in our system and improve operational reliability for our customers and employees.”

Defying crowds and paying high prices will only be part of the summer holiday challenge, as The Washington Post reported this spring: Travelers should expect their rooms to be cleaned less frequently, service at restaurants suffer, and flights delayed or canceled.

Leave a Comment