Memorial Day weekend is typically one of the biggest travel weekends of the year, but a huge surge in travel costs may put a damper on this year’s plans, despite many states lifting restrictions on travel and other activities.
Data from AAA is showing a dramatic spike in costs, including rates for rental cars that have doubled since last year and a 14% average increase in airfare that is only expected to get worse.
Gas prices have increased more than a dollar a gallon since last summer, and hotel rates are up 29 to 34%.
Still, travel is expected to be robust despite the increases as many people venture out for the first time in over a year.
“Significant pent-up demand”
“We don’t expect these higher prices to negatively impact travel for Memorial Day or this summer. There is significant pent-up demand right now and Americans are eager to get out and travel. When travel prices have increased in the past, we find travelers may look for more free activities or eat out less while on vacation, but they still take their planned trips,” a spokesperson for AAA said.
Half of American adults are now fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, and have been reassured by the CDC that they are not at risk from severe disease even if they are infected with the coronavirus somehow.
Republicans made it clear that President Joe Biden’s policies are not helping the costs associated with travel, between inflation from dumping trillions of dollars into the economy and pipeline cancellations and problems that have made fuel more expensive.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) said of the hack into Colonial Pipeline that caused gasoline shortages earlier this months, “The attack should make it clear that more pipelines and energy development here in America make our economy more resilient and our nation more secure, but President Biden and Congressional Democrats have worked to scale back both.”
International travel still restricted
Biden has also moved slowly to allow international travel to and from the U.S. as the coronavirus recedes. Travel to Mexico and Canada will be allowed after June 21, but travel to Europe remains restricted with no end date announced yet.
“We can’t overstate the importance of resuming travel of all types, business travel, international travel,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said to reporters Tuesday. “At the same time, we have a responsibility to ensure public safety. We are following the facts, the data, the science, in making the decision as to when business international travel actually can resume.”
“Consumers who feel comfortable traveling, whether it be for the summer months or later during the holidays, should consider getting their tickets now. In the weeks ahead, we expect prices to continue rising, even as airlines open up more routes, ” Adobe Digital Insights director Taylor Schreiner said, attributing the trend to pent-up demand as more people are vaccinated.
Whether the price increases will last beyond people’s government stimulus checks remains to be seen.