Driving is the preferred mode of travel this Memorial Day Weekend. Photo credit: Kenny Eliason on Unsplash

Stressed and stuck-at-home, Americans start the summer travel season strong in spite of Memorial Day inflation hikes

Sticker shock at the gas pump is not stopping Memorial Day travel.

Gas prices are at a ten year record high. COVID-19 still lurks. Added is the latest health issue: Monkeypox. But, cabin fever be damned. Two years of restricted movement outweighs inflation prices and health risks, as millions of Americans return to their Memorial Day jaunts. 

“This Memorial Day, almost as many people will travel as did pre-pandemic,” forecasts American Automobile Association (AAA), the federation of motor clubs throughout the U.S. Projections by AAA report that an estimated 39.2 million will travel this weekend. Plus, most travel occurred this past Friday and Saturday.

“Summer travel isn’t just heating up, it will be on fire,” said Paula Twidale, senior vice president, AAA Travel.

In comparison to 2021 with 1,854,534 air travelers, TSA reports that 525,326 more people went through the checkpoints this year. That said, Delta canceled 240 flights at the beginning of the holiday weekend. Flight tracker, FlightAware reported there were 703 cancellations worldwide, 204 of those were in the U.S., and 1,907 planes were delayed on Saturday 

However, the preferred mode of transport is by car. With the range of long-distance travel being 50 miles or more, according to AAA, an estimated 34.9 million travelers will be driving. This will be the highest traffic since 2017. While driving offers a more budget-friendly traveling option, especially for families, it can also be dangerous. Cpl. Matthew Johnston of the Pennsylvania State Police warned that “poor driving habits [were] made worse during the pandemic.” 

Unsafe driving practices such as speeding, using the phone while driving or easily being distracted rank high in the causes of accidents. That said, Cpl. Johnston urged those behind the wheel of cars and trucks yp take extra precautions as they reorient themselves to long-distance journeys.

Ark Republic adds to a AAA checklist before you travel.

  • A highway map just in case your phone loses a signal or navigation app has not updated the latest road change
  • Fully-charged cell phone and car charger
  • First aid kit
  • Blanket
  • Flashlight with fresh batteries and a backup supply of batteries
  • Rags, paper towels or pre-moistened wipes
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Toilet tissue just in case the bathroom is on the side of the road . . . it happens
  • Emergency warning devices such as road flares or reflectors
  • Jumper cables
  • Drinking water and snacks for everyone in the car, including pets
  • Window visor to shield babies, children and elderly from extreme sun
  • Great playlists
  • A collection of road games

The best way to travel by car, if you have time, is to take historic or the most picturesque highways. Like the famous Route 66, spanning over 2,400 miles across eight states, the trail starts in Chicago then ends in Santa Monica, California. While in California, drive some miles up Pacific Coast Highway, also known as State Route 1 to immerse yourself in one of the best views of the U.S. west coastline. However, PCH runs from San Diego all the way up to Seattle, so there are many stops.

Read: Searching for soul in Sin City: Las Vegas Rebirthed

Las Vegas is the top traveling destination after the pandemic.

Where to go

In the U.S., the top travel destination is the 24-hour party oasis, Las Vegas. Just a 4-hour drive from Los Angeles and a 1.5 hour flight from San Francisco with ongoing air traffic deplaning thousands of passengers a day, the desert city picked up its speed after the pandemic and never stopped. Offering a range of hotels, both old and new, the multiple destinations and leisure activities appeal to a range of visitors. 

Added, the expansive options of activities, from concerts to skating rinks to water parks and fireworks night shows, the choices offer an impressive variety. Plus, restaurants and bars are in full steam with the added measure of touchless services and digital menus developed during the pandemic are still in place. While mask rules for employees vary, tourists can enjoy the city with masks on or off.

At this time of the year, the average temperature is 102 degrees, so it is best to stay indoors during the day, or drive through the breath-taking landscape full of Joshua trees and ochre-colored mountains and tableaus. You can also drive to the westernmost part of the Grand Canyon in a few hours.

Weathering the weather

Though people have planned months ahead, some areas are dueling with Mother Nature. In the Baltimore-Washington area, early weekend storms dampened travel with congested highways, and downed or delayed flights. If you’re going to Acapulco, Mexico or the Oaxaca region, a significant storm meteorologists call Hurricane Agatha, is expected to make landfall on Monday. 

Added to travel woes in the Northwest, expected heavy rainfall and snow dampens weekend activities in Montana, Idaho, Colorado, Wyoming, Oregon and northern Utah. On the polar opposite, in Texas, extreme heat will force many to crank up their air condition units and chill, while those in Virginia brace for possible tornadoes.

The roll of the weather dice has favored much of  the Atlantic region on the East Coast. Mildly warm temperatures make great outdoor trips from Savannah, Georgia up to Maine.

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