What to know about Labor Day travel: Delays, deals and weather

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Millions of Americans are expected to pack highways and airports this week for Labor Day weekend, capping a chaotic summer for travel.

Domestic travel bookings — including flights, cars, cruises, hotels and tours — are up 22% from Labor Day weekend in 2021, the spokeswoman says. AAA, Ellen Edmonds. International bookings have increased by 104% as coronavirus restrictions continue to ease. Travel booking app Hopper expects more than 12.7 million people to fly from US airports between Thursday and Monday, including 1.8 million overseas.

With airlines still plagued by staffing issues and extreme weather, travel experts said the most important decision is building flexibility into your plans. And for last-minute vacations, there are still deals to be found.

Airline Labor Issues Won’t Go Away

Here’s what to know if you’re traveling or hoping to get away from it all this Labor Day weekend.

Be prepared for delays in Atlanta, Denver and LA

According to Hopper’s forecast, an average of 2.6 million passengers are expected to depart from US airports each day over Labor Day weekend, with the peak of air travel occurring on Fridays.

“We’re just seeing extremely high levels of demand,” said Andrew Heritage, an economist at Hopper. “But also, demand has come back faster than capacity – airlines have brought capacity down to around 95% of what it was before the pandemic, but it hasn’t quite returned to pre-pandemic levels. pandemic.”

The company predicts that the busiest airports will be Atlanta, Denver and Los Angeles, and warns passengers transiting through these hubs to be prepared for delays. The worst airports for flight disruptions are expected to be Chicago-Midway, Baltimore and Dallas’s Love Field — at all three airports, more than a third of flights in August were delayed, according to Hopper.

Arrive at the airport early to be as “adaptable” as possible this weekend, Heritage said. For those who haven’t purchased a ticket yet, he recommended flying on Saturday or Sunday and using tools like Hopper’s Flight Disruption Guarantee, which allows for free, instant rebooking in the event of a disruption. flight.

While TSA data shows the number of people passing through security checkpoints has declined since June and July, the agency expects a slight increase over Labor Day weekend, according to spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein.

“We continue to be fully staffed to handle the volume of travel,” Farbstein said in an email. “But make no mistake, there will be plenty of people at airports around the country for holiday travel.”

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Edmonds said AAA expects a rush of travelers Thursday and Friday, and recommended leaving early in the morning for road trips and flights.

Gas remains significantly more expensive than a year ago, but average prices nationwide have fallen more than a dollar since June, according to AAA. The national average hovered around $3.85 a gallon this week. It’s cheaper to refuel in the Southeast, especially in Arkansas, Mississippi, and Georgia.

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Rental cars are also seeing a drop, with fall prices expected to be 21% cheaper domestically and 31% cheaper internationally compared to summer, according to Matt Clarke, vice president of marketing at Kayaking North America.

Hot and dry, except the South

Temperatures are expected to be above average for most of the country — except for Texas — over Labor Day weekend, according to the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center. Chances of precipitation are higher than normal in Southern California and the South, especially Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi, while northern states are less likely than usual to see rain.

The East Coast hurricane season has been historically quiet so far, but there’s a chance that will change over Labor Day weekend, according to AccuWeather. Meteorologists are monitoring several systems, one of which has a slim chance of threatening the Gulf Coast over the weekend, AccuWeather reported, which could disrupt travel and gas supplies.

Coronavirus cases in the United States gradually declined in August, but vaccine immunity is waning and the virus is evolving to become more transmissible, so testing and masking remain important for travel.

You should always test travel, health experts say

Masking is not required on public transportation or airplanes, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends continuing to do so. If you test positive, you should avoid traveling until you are out of isolation, according to the CDC. If you have been released from isolation but it has been less than 10 days since you tested positive, or if you have been exposed to someone with covid, you are still recommended to wear a high quality mask or travel in a private vehicle.

And although the United States no longer requires a negative test result to enter the country, most non-citizens must show proof of vaccination. The CDC offers a tool on its website to determine requirements for people entering the United States, and Kayak maintains a database of travel restrictions in foreign countries.

The federal government program that provides free at-home coronavirus testing will be suspended on Friday due to a funding shortfall, according to its website. Tests are still available for reimbursement from insurance companies or at public testing sites.

Even if you haven’t booked a trip yet, there may still be deals out there, Heritage said. Airfare to Atlanta and Orlando remains under $250 round-trip, and if you’re willing to drive, hotels in Kissimmee, Florida, and Tempe, Arizona have affordable rates, according to Heritage.

You might also consider a “staycation,” as some hotels offer special last-minute rates to local guests based on geolocation, according to Hopper. Major cities like New York and Las Vegas may also have deals on hotel rooms close to arrival date.

The least expensive domestic destinations according to Kayak are Myrtle Beach, SC; Las Vegas and Orlando, Clarke said. Internationally, Montreal, Toronto and Guadalajara, Mexico are good places to look for last-minute deals.

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Overall, travel prices have fallen slightly since the peak of a historically expensive summer season, but you’ll still get sticker shock from last year and before the pandemic. The average domestic airfare this Labor Day weekend is $278, 23% higher than in 2021 and 20% higher than before the pandemic in 2019, Heritage said.

“If people are watching, if they haven’t made plans yet and they want to catch a flight, maybe leave on Saturday or Sunday and if they can, come back on Tuesday or Wednesday, would avoid the crowds but also would probably save money that way,” Heritage said.

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