CHICAGO — Travel should see a massive rebound this Memorial Day weekend. By some estimates, an increase of 60% from last year’s record low. With increases in vaccinations, relaxed mask mandates, and many people ready for "revenge travel," Americans are expected to take to the air and roads with a vengeance.
“We're going to spend more money, maybe take more trips or stay longer,” said Jeanette McGee with AAA.
Updated CDC guidelines say fully vaccinated people taking proper precautions can travel domestically at low risk.
“It's not completely back to normal yet, and I think for a lot of people, they will want to stay a little closer to home or travel to areas that they have a lot of comfort with for a while,” said Melanie Lieberman, senior travel editor with the travel and lifestyle media platform The Points Guy.
According to AAA, 34 million Americans are planning Memorial Day road trips, with another 2.5 million expected to travel by air.
“There are a lot of people traveling, so, you know, those COVID roads, where there were open roads and not so much traffic, that's not so much the case anymore,” McGee said.
The top five road trip destinations this holiday weekend:
1. Las Vegas, Nevada
2. Orlando, Florida
3. Myrtle Beach, Florida
4. Denver, Colorado
5. Nashville, Tennessee
Pent-up demand also means vacationing will be expensive. Flight prices have been climbing since April.
“This is a popular time for people to travel anyway,” said Lieberman. "Families are reconnecting. There are a lot of factors converging, and all of this is compounded by the fact that there’s still reduced inventory.”
Low inventory and high demand for rental cars could leave some scrambling for a ride. Rental car pricing in places like Arizona, Hawaii, and Florida has spiked by 300%.
“As much as $134 a day, if not more,” said McGee. “So, definitely best to plan ahead when you're looking at rentals.”
Experts say there will be a pain at the pump as well.
“Gas prices are the most expensive we've seen since 2014, and they're not going to get cheaper anytime soon,” said McGee.
For those hoping to avoid crowds, travel experts suggest reconsidering travel to some of the most popular vacation destinations.
“It's important to use a travel agent, someone you can ask questions to understand what's open, what restrictions are in place just again, so you can enjoy that vacation, especially if you're planning an international trip,” said McGee.
It’s important to remember the pandemic is not over yet and case increases could change things at your final destination.
“It's also a really good time to think about getting a travel insurance policy, even if that's something you didn't do before the pandemic. It's a great way to protect your travel investment,” said Lieberman.
Experts say successful summer travel will be found where planning ahead meets flexibility.