May 28, 2021 - Economy & Business

Summer travel is forecast to be stressful

Paper airplanes

Illustration: Rae Cook/Axios

Many summer travelers may wish they stayed home.

Why it matters: Travel is returning to pre-pandemic levels at a time when the country remains divided on masks and vaccinations — and worker shortages mean reduced service levels, yet higher prices.

By the numbers: More than 37 million people are expected to travel 50 miles or more this Memorial Day weekend (6 million fewer than in 2019), according to AAA.

  • Of those, 34 million are planning road trips.
  • Airfares are going up steadily around 12%, according to TripActions.
  • Hotel occupancy is at 60% with weekly room demand at 80% or more of 2019 levels. Daily rates are down 15% compared to 2019 but growing.
  • Gas prices have exceeded $4 west of Colorado, with the national average now $3.04 a gallon, according to AAA.

What they're saying: Because parts of Europe are still closed off to travelers, summer travel this year will be domestic — meaning travelers should also expect culture clashes, The Points Guy founder Brian Kelly tells Axios.

  • For the better part of a year, people have remained in communities that shared the same beliefs when it comes to COVID precautions and vaccines. Now, with massive domestic travel, "you have anti-maskers on planes with those who are petrified," Kelly says.
  • "I thought people would savor travel and be kind to one another, but unfortunately due to the fact that we’re living in two Americas ... it's only going to get worse," he added.

What to watch: Expect jammed roadways, full planes, long TSA lines, slower room service, and some unruly passengers.

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