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Memorial Day trips: In the midst of record high gas prices, millions of trips are planned

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More Americans are expected to travel to Memorial Day weekend than last year despite record gas prices, more expensive air fares, higher hotel prices and a wave of covid infections – a result of pent-up demand surpassing health concerns and escalating prices, industry experts say.

Studies show that gas prices averaging up to $ 6 per gallon in some parts of the country and $ 4.60 nationwide – a jump of 50 percent from a year ago – have made some travelers stay closer to home. However, many will seek out cheaper hotels or cut back on entertainment and dining out to afford a vacation, experts say.

“In those two years, we’ve missed family reunions, weddings, bar mitzvahs, confirmations – all these things with friends and family,” said Amir Eylon, president of Longwoods International, a travel and tourism market research consulting firm. “Now that the fear of covid among travelers has diminished significantly – and despite inflationary pressures – people are determined to get out there.”

Gasoline prices are a much bigger factor than Covid for summer travel, poll finds

Nationwide, AAA predicts 39.2 million people – 8 percent more than last year and 92 percent of pre-pandemic levels – will travel over Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial start of what it expects to be a busy summer. Compared to last year’s holiday weekend, AAA expects a 4.6 per cent increase in car travel, 25 per cent growth in flights and a 200 per cent jump in travel by bus, train and cruise ship.

Meanwhile, the average ticket price for the lowest flight ticket is $ 184, up 6 percent compared to a year ago. Mid-range hotels charge an average of $ 230 per night – 42 percent more – for the lowest price, according to AAA. Only daily car rental prices are down, and fell 16 percent from last year, when there was a shortage of vehicles.

DC residents pay higher-than-average gas costs – $ 4.84 per gallon – but are still expected to block roads in the Washington area.

Maryland officials recommend going to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge to the beaches of the Eastern Shore early in the morning or late at night. The Maryland Transportation Authority expects more than 330,000 vehicles to cross the bridge over the long weekend, about the same as pre-pandemic Memorial Day weekends.

An ominous sign: Last weekend, days before the holiday, Sunday’s westbound backup reached 5.5 miles, authorities said.

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Last year’s Memorial Day weekend marked the first major travel period after the distribution of coronavirus vaccines, but they were limited. This year, vaccines are widely available. Also, say tourism experts, some people who postpone travel have more savings to put towards higher costs. Some also booked airline tickets and hotel rooms months ago, before prices rose sharply.

An April survey by AAA found that more than 50 percent of DC residents said they planned to travel more this summer than last year, despite rising gas prices. More than half said they were less concerned about the pandemic, and about 1 in 3 said it would be their first significant summer trip since 2019. Although most said they did not take into account the price of gas when making plans, about 1 in 4 they took fewer or shorter trips because of it, AAA said.

“I think this year, especially with vaccines that are readily available and many are being vaccinated, many people have a desire to travel,” said Ragina Ali, AAA Mid-Atlantic spokeswoman. “Overwhelming, pent-up demand for people to resume some sort of normality seems to outweigh the costs.”

7 cheaper destinations

Some motorists who went out on Thursday shrank at the expense of the landfill. However, no one mentioned concerns about the pandemic or consideration of canceling plans due to gas costs. Traveling, many said, felt like something they needed to do, despite the extra cost.

At a Shell station in Stevensville, Md., Where normal gas was $ 4.49 per gallon, Amalya Dixon struggled at $ 50 to fill up, even with the tank starting at a quarter full. Dixon, 61, said she and her daughter, Lina Flefel, 26, drove to Chincoteague Island, Va., Where Dixon moved from Silver Spring. The moving car was not far behind.

“I had to move,” Dixon, an artist, said of her trip. “But I’re constantly looking at gas prices and trying to find the cheapest one. ‘One of the things I look forward to at the Chincoteague is cycling everywhere.”

Dixon said she also plans to drive to a family wedding in Maine in late July, but she will likely cut back on eating out and other nice things to save up.

“I have to go,” she said. “It will affect how I spend my money in other ways. I can not spend money on other things if I have to spend them on gasoline. “

Several recent studies, including by travel consultants and industry groups, show that concerns about gas prices have surpassed concerns about the coronavirus.

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In a recent Washington Post-Schar School survey, 72 percent of Americans said they “definitely” or “probably” plan to take a vacation this summer. About 6 in 10 said gas prices were a “major factor” in their plans, while about 1 in 4 cited concerns about the coronavirus, according to opinion polls in late April and early May.

In Maryland, an automatic increase in the gas tax will send prices even higher from July 1, adding 6.6 cents per gallon. The tax, which is linked to inflation and is collected at the wholesale level, will increase from 36.1 cents per gallon to 42.7 cents.

Democrats chairing the state General Assembly did not support a special session to avert the increase or offer another temporary gas-tax holiday, saying such efforts provide marginal relief for motorists while starving the state of money needed for roads, transit and bridges.

In Virginia, Gov. Glenn Youngkins (R) plans to suspend a planned increase in the gas tax of 26.2 cents per gallon and to suspend the tax for a total of three months in lengthy budget negotiations between the Republican-led House and the Democratic Party. -controlled senate. The General Assembly returns to Richmond on Wednesday to vote on a compromise budget proposal – too late for Memorial Day motorists.

The gas tax holiday ends in Maryland while Virginia discusses its own

The cost of filling up plays a role in tourism sites.

Jessica Waters, a spokeswoman for Ocean City, proclaimed Maryland’s beach town proximity – “less than a tank away” – from millions of DC, Baltimore and Philadelphia residents.

“Gas prices are higher, but a trip to Ocean City is still much cheaper than traveling to most other beach destinations,” Waters said. “It’s definitely cheaper than a plane ticket.”

Nevertheless, the airlines say they expect large crowds. Bookings are up 3 percent compared to the same period in May 2019, but air travelers spend 24 percent more, according to data collected by Adobe Analytics used by companies in the tourism industry.

United Airlines said this Memorial Day weekend will be one of the busiest this year. The airline said it expected 2.6 million people to fly between Thursday and Tuesday – an increase of 50 percent from last year and about 90 percent of the number who flew during the travel period to Memorial Day in 2019.

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Delta Air Lines said it will carry about 2.5 million customers over the weekend, an increase of 25 percent. Nevertheless, the airline announced reductions in the summer schedule on Thursday, and said it would cut about 100 flights per day between July 1 and August 7.

United, Delta and several other US carriers are still struggling with staff shortages as they struggle to replace the estimated 50,000 workers who left the industry during the pandemic. As a result, despite greater demand, many airlines are flying dilapidated schedules as they try to avoid the kind of delays and cancellations that changed the plans of tens of thousands of travelers last summer and fall.

This dynamic – fewer flights combined with higher demand – pushes up ticket prices, putting flights out of reach for some.

Airlines are trimming summer schedules, with the aim of avoiding high-profile meltdowns

Los Angeles resident Ellie Romero, 25, who works in communications, said she had saved for a trip to Atlanta this summer to visit family she has not seen since the pandemic began. When she checked in in March, the flight cost around $ 300. When she was ready to buy a ticket at the end of April, she said, she was surprised to find that the lowest price had almost tripled.

“I saw it and thought, ‘It’s not happening by any means,'” Romero said.

Travel experts say that history shows that gas price increases, such as during the great recession and after 9/11, terrorist attacks, often shorten – but do not stop – the great American car journey.

In a recent study, Eylon’s firm found that nearly 60 percent of respondents said rising gas prices would “affect” or “greatly affect” their travel plans over the next six months, including by taking fewer or shorter trips. Only 6 percent said they canceled travel plans – just over the 5 percent cancellation rate typical of family emergencies, work demands and other problems, he said.

“They are going to keep traveling,” he said. “They are just going to find ways to reduce the cost of redistributing the travel budget.”

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Larry Roessner, 70, of Myrtle Beach, SC, laughed in apparent disbelief when asked how much it cost to fill his RV when he and his wife, Darleen, 66, moved to the Atlantic City area. He paid $ 159 at the Shell station in Stevensville on Thursday, though he started with the tank partially full.

Roessner estimated the gas for the two-day drive would be $ 600 to $ 700 – far more than last year, but probably less than he could lose at a craps table in Atlantic City.

“I’m retired,” Roessner said. ‘What else should I do? “We should have fun and not worry about it.”

But others said that inflation has put a summer trip outside the borders.

Meggan Wagner, 40, who is unemployed, said she usually travels several times each summer from her home in southern Iowa to Wisconsin. But this year, she said, she’s passing the nine-hour drive.

“Not only are gas prices going up, food is also going up, which makes it twice as bad,” Wagner said. “Either you choose to go somewhere, or you choose to eat, and this year I’m cutting in a way.”

Erin Cox and Laura Vozzella contributed to this report.

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