HUNTINGTON – Rising gasoline prices won’t stop Ramona Smith from making her Memorial Day trip from South Charleston to Columbus, Ohio, to visit family.
“I didn’t go last year due to the pandemic, but I’m ready to go this year,” she said. “I don’t like the high gas prices, but that won’t stop me from going this year.”
Smith, 51, of Huntington, isn’t the only one with travel plans for the upcoming Memorial Day weekend. The AAA predicts that 34 million Americans will take a road trip 50 miles or more from their homes May 27-31 to celebrate the unofficial kickoff of summer. This is an increase of 52% from last summer, but almost 9% lower than pre-pandemic levels in 2019. Either way, motorists will face the most expensive gasoline prices since 2014.
In Huntington, the average price of a gallon of gasoline is around $ 3. The national average gas price is the most expensive in six years at $ 3.04, according to an AAA report.
AAA Travel expects most people to travel 50 miles or more from home nationwide on vacation weekends. That’s a 60% increase from last year when just 23 million people traveled, the lowest on record since AAA started recording in 2000.
The projected increase in vacation demand last year, which fell early in the pandemic phase, is still 13% (nearly 6 million) fewer travelers than in 2019. AAA notes that the number actual vacation travelers could fluctuate as the vacation approaches. and urges travelers to exercise caution and protect themselves and others as the pandemic continues.
“As more destinations open up and vaccines are administered, we are seeing an increase in the number of consumers ready to step out and enjoy the unofficial start of the summer travel season,” said Bevi Powell, senior vice president of AAA East Central. “The pent-up demand for travel could also be a sign of things to come this summer, as more and more people feel comfortable hitting the road and making new memories with family and friends,” he said. she added.
AAA Travel has noted significant recent increases in online traffic and bookings on AAA.com, especially for hotels and car rentals, as the summer travel season approaches. AAA booking data shows that domestic travel and car travel remain the main drivers of the short-term travel recovery.
Powell says AAA recommends working with a travel counselor.
“They can help you if you need to make last-minute changes to your travel plans, explore travel insurance options, and help you plan a vacation that meets your needs and comfort level this summer,” said she declared.
When planning a trip, travelers can also view the new AAA Digital TourBook guides, now available for destinations in the United States, Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean at TourBook.AAA.com. Available on smartphone, tablet or desktop, the new interactive guides feature in-depth destination information, must-see attractions, sample itineraries and more, said Powell.
A contributing factor to the increase is the recently updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that fully vaccinated people can travel to the country at low risk to themselves, while taking appropriate precautions. expected travel this vacation.
“It is important to keep in mind that some local and national travel restrictions may however remain in place,” she said. “Travelers can view AAA’s COVID-19 travel restrictions map and TripTik.AAA.com for the latest information to help plan their trip. “
For travelers who aren’t vaccinated but choose to travel, the CDC recommends that you practice social distancing, wear a mask, wash your hands, and get tested before and after travel. Whether you are vaccinated or not, remember that masks are required on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation to, within or outside the United States and in the American transportation hubs such as airports and train stations.
After a historically low year of air travel in 2020, this Memorial Day will see nearly 2.5 million Americans boarding planes, nearly six times more than last year, according to AAA. Yet 750,000 fewer people will take off on this holiday compared to 2019. AAA reminds air travelers that masks are mandatory at all airports and on flights.
Meanwhile, only 237,000 Americans are expected to travel by other modes, including bus and train, this Memorial Day. This is the second lowest volume on record, only above the 185,000 people who traveled in 2020. By 2021, travel via these modes will be 88% below 2019 levels.
INRIX predicts that drivers will experience the longest travel delays leading up to the holiday weekend, particularly during the afternoons of Thursday May 27 and Friday May 28.
“Although vehicle travel has decreased by up to 40% in some subways, afternoon congestion has almost returned to pre-pandemic levels. With the increase in the number of travelers on vacation for typical afternoon daily trips, drivers of major subways should expect longer delays before the holiday weekend, ”said Bob Pishue, transport analyst at INRIX. “Travelers should expect the delays to start Wednesday and continue through Memorial Day. Our advice to drivers is to avoid evening travel times and plan alternative routes. “
As with all major vacations, AAA is bracing for an influx of roadside assistance calls. This year, the AAA plans to save more than 468,000 roadside Americans over Memorial Day weekend.